New Trade Deal is Shrouded in Secrecy
Independent watchdog groups are speaking out about a new US-led trade agreement that can have massive effects on prices and regulations but is being shrouded in secrecy by lawmakers. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is currently being negotiated between the US, Canada, Mexico, South American countries, Asian countries, and Australia and is intended to “boost US economic growth and support the creation and retention of high-quality jobs.” Dean Baker, the director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research has strong doubts about the deal’s aim. “This really is a deal that’s being negotiated by corporations for corporations and any benefit it provides to the bulk of the population of this country will be purely incidental,” says Baker.
Other experts agree. Yves Smith, editor of the website Naked Capitalism, notes that “there would be no reason to keep it so secret if it was in the interest of the public.” In fact, the negotiations have been kept so secret that even members of Congress have complained that there has not been nearly enough disclosure about the impact and details of the deal.
There are, however, some details that have emerged about this deal, often called “NAFTA for Asia.” Perhaps the most controversial is that the TPP would allow foreign companies to challenge environmental, financial, human rights, and public welfare regulations that exist in whatever partner state they are investing in. In other words, if a US regulation regarding environmental protection or employee rights infringes on a company’s ability to make as much money as possible, they can appeal in an international tribunal.
Aside from that, the TPP would lower tariffs on partner states which will make it even more difficult for US workers to compete with low wage labor in foreign countries because of cheaper imports. On the flip side, the TPP would increase patent protections for pharmaceuticals which would allow Big Pharma to monopolize the market on live saving drugs and prevent cheaper alternatives from getting to sick people in the poorest parts of the world.
The similarities to NAFTA are alarming. The trade pact, while helping big corporations in the US and Canada, has destroyed the US manufacturing sector and weakened the Mexican middle-class by bringing only low-paying factory jobs.
(Image: Gobierno de Chile)