Labor Voices: Congress can’t let TPP go through
Supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are likely to put up a huge fight in an effort to pass the 12-nation Pacific Rim agreement during the closing days of the congressional session. Why? Because they realize that with two anti-TPP nominees at the top of both major party tickets, it is likely their best chance to get this deal done.
Congress can’t let this happen. A growing bipartisan coalition of lawmakers opposes the agreement, including recent converts vice presidential nominee and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, as well as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California. That’s an encouraging sign. But victory is far from a given.
In an age when corporate influence in public policy is on the rise, the TPP represents the next level. The proposed pact includes 40 percent of the global economy and represents a huge opportunity for big business to grow its profits even more. Never mind concerns over corporate greed, lost jobs, the environment or unsafe food or products — those are inconsequential for CEOs looking to bolster their bottom lines.
One of the most insidious chapters included in the TPP deals with something called the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Thanks to hundreds of corporate advisers who helped shape this trade agreement, the ISDS language has created a corrupt deal where companies can now benefit from an unbalanced, one-sided and completely unfair arrangement that benefits big business at the expense of everyday Americans.
The ISDS provision allows foreign corporations to sue the U.S. government in private tribunals which are de facto corporate courts run by three corporate lawyers who rotate between judging these cases and representing corporations. While this is undoubtedly a conflict of interest, there is no appealing the rulings.
Under the TPP, American taxpayers could be forced to pay foreign corporations compensation for any U.S. law or safety provision they don’t like. International businesses can sue for not only current losses but projected future profits, and there is no limit on the amount they could skim from American taxpayers.
In essence, this ISDS language gives overseas companies that come to this country even more rights and privileges than hard-working Americans and this nation’s own businesses receive. It also elevates these outside businesses to a level equal to the U.S. government by allowing them to sue this country in these special corporate courts.
Why would Congress approve a deal that is a giveaway for foreign interests and would penalize American taxpayers? Because big business wants it badly, and will pull out all the tricks to get it passed. Corporations know if they can bring TPP to a vote during a lame-duck legislative session at the end of this year, they will be dealing with a significant amount of lawmakers who will no longer be accountable to voters because they are leaving Capitol Hill.
Want to stop this from happening? Let your members of Congress know you oppose TPP. Tell them to put the people above the powerful by not allowing this trade pact to come to a vote.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.