By William C. Anderson & Natalie Yoon
There is something big coming our way. It’s called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It’s a trade deal that dwarfs the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), set to conclude as early as the end of the year. TPP has been stealthily entering in and out of news outlets with a surprisingly small amount of coverage. The corporate media has done what it does best – it has ignored things that matter. That’s not to say that the Obama Administration has not been extremely secretive about it, because they have been. But where the media fails us, mass movements and non-profits should inform us, right? Well it hasn’t exactly worked out that way.
Three movements are particularly surprising me by not addressing this issue and not fighting back for the people they are supposedly representing. I have sat watching the failure of what I have dubbed “The Movementless Movement.”
The movements I would expect to respond directly are the immigrants rights movement, the labor movement, and a plethora of civil rights organizations. Surprisingly the immigrants rights movement has not addressed the TPP at all. Foreign policy and trade negotiations are central to this movement’s narrative of exploitation and displacement. However, this trade deal, which is larger than the NAFTA, has managed to tiptoe by so many. The media is partially to blame for their lack of effort to inform the population. But why would leaders, activists, and supporters who collectively realize our media is pretty defunct not be aware of the TPP? One might assume that we are not informing ourselves as much as we should. The plutocrats seem to stay one step ahead. NAFTA comes up on all sides of the immigrants rights movement correctly as the force that directly drove many immigrants here from South and Central America. It crippled communities and destroyed local economies, forcing many to look elsewhere for sources of income for themselves and their families. It’s disappointing, to say the least, that TPP has not been addressed while the Obama Administration deports ruthlessly. During trying times for the immigrant community, nonprofits and organizations have neglected to talk about this issue enough, if at all.
Unions have failed to inform their base in very similar ways. Labor has moved in lockstep with much of the immigrant’s rights movement in promoting comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) or arguing about its feasibility, meanwhile the harbinger of unfathomable danger creeps up slowly. Labor notes reports that the Teamsters and Communication workers have been more active than others. However, the AFL-CIO maintains that this deal would destroy millions of jobs and evokes human rights concerns. So, why are they not being louder about it? Unions, at the weakest point in their history, are responding poorly, if at all. Labor’s hesitation and inaction on thepoison in Obamacare has been virulent. And the TPP is looking like it could be just as fatal.
And lastly, civil rights organizations that dominate so much of the conversation about jobs are also quiet. These are the very organizations that supposedly represent people of color, who are disproportionately unemployed. The narrative about “good jobs,” the middle class, and keeping work from going overseas seems ignore the oncoming onslaught to all three. During these times, it seems that outrage is becoming more manufactured and less genuine. If it was sincere, one would assume something such as this would not be creeping up on us. So it’s mind boggling that the movements that work so closely and revolve around each other have been so quiet. The silence is deafening, and weeks after the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, the response from these organizations has been of poor quality, if there has been any response at all.
Liberals, “radicals,” and progressives within these movements have collectively failed to expose, inform, and organize against a leviathan sitting right on the front doorstep. It is for that reason it will be left up to us to inform, organize, and work to stop the coming offense from unchecked corporate power.
Here are 5 crucial things you should know about the TPP:
1. The TPP is the corporate coup of our democracy and will undermine our ability to shape public policy.
Forget corporate personhood, try corporate nationhood. The TPP will elevate multinational corporations and banks to the status of nation-states, giving them the power to sue sovereign governments for policies that they think threaten their potential profits. If the TPP is passed, these privileges will be given to over 30,000 companies. This international agreement would trump any national, state, or local legislation. As our sovereignty is signed away, this means that movements for regulating Wall Street, labor rights, or environmental protection may soon hit monstrous, international roadblocks.
By gutting what’s left of manufacturing in the U.S., the TPP will replace good jobs here in the U.S. with abysmal sweatshops overseas. As the race to the bottom accelerates, union membership will likely fall along with workplace standards and wages.
3. The TPP will devastate communities abroad, increase forced migration, and encourage border militarization.
While much of the immigrant rights movement has focused on harmful policies for undocumented immigrants, we must also confront the root causes of forced migration, and the continued struggle families face on the other side of the border.
4. The TPP will drastically raise the cost of healthcare by preventing the sale of low-cost generic drugs. Millions could die.
Big Pharma is using the TPP to implement extreme intellectual property rights to destroy the competitive generic drug market. To put this in perspective, the first generation of HIV drugs have come down in price by 99% over the last decade thanks to of generic production. While these new laws will most severely threaten poor people in underdeveloped countries, U.S. Government programs like medicaid, medicare, and tricare, will be undermined as well.
5. It’s not too late. Congress still has a chance to stop this before Obama and his corporate advisors complete it.
Basically, it all boils down to “Fast Track”, a trade negotiating process that circumvents congressional oversight and public participation. Without Fast Track, there’s little chance the TPP will actually happen. Congress must grant Fast Track authority through a majority vote, and it remains very controversial among both Republicans and Democrats. The race is on. Corporations have been lobbying for Fast Track and the TPP for years, its now time our movements get moving too.
If those of us who know do not acknowledge this threat before it gets worse we are partially to blame. Something has to be done and we cannot expect a party, a nonprofit, or a politician to save us. In the era of corporate personhood, people are about to face off with a serious opponent. One of a stature we have yet to encounter. The problem is, we cannot expect much of a fight when people do not even know they are in the ring with the TPP. It always hurts worse to be hit when you didn’t even see it coming.
Follow William on Twitter @WilliamCAnder.
Natalie Yoon is a contributing author. Natalie is the National Organizer for United Students for Fair Trade (USFT). USFT just launched a Topple the TPP campaign to bring students into the fight against the TPP. For more information check outwww.usft.org/topple-the-tpp and like us on Facebook.
For other ways to get involved with TPP resistance, check out: