We’ve been exposed to an awful lot of banter and propaganda about international trade deals recently. In the past year, the words “Fast Track,” “Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),” and “trade promotion authority” have been thrown around quite liberally, most recently in the State of the Union Address. While we’ve blogged about the TPP and Fast Track many times already, and produced a fact sheet or two to break it down for the uninitiated, it seems like it might be a nice gesture to explain why this topic is on the tips of many a political tongue as of late.
In a world of endless acronyms, international trade has produced its share, many of which can be noted for their potential to reap havoc on values that Americans hold dear. To put it simply, the TPP is a controversial and largely secretive global trade deal that the Obama administration is trying to push through Congress, and Fast Track is a convenient nickname for the mechanism that political leaders are trying to use to push it through Congress quickly, without any messy arguments about it’s details. If it helps you remember: TPP is the Crazy Train and Fast Track is the Highway to Hell.
For the better part of a year-and-a-half, the corporate lobbying machine, congressional Republicans and the White House have been united in pushing for Fast Track authority on trade deals that will hurt the environment, public health, workers and American democracy, but the TPP has the ability to do all of this in one fell swoop.
The contents of the TPP are reminiscent of many free trade pacts from the past that put corporate interests ahead of the public interest. I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “The TPP? It’s like NAFTA on steroids!” While that’s not far from the truth, it might not be indicative of just how far-reaching and destructive this trade deal could be. It’s certainly an approach to global commerce that threatens to undermine food safety, accelerate fracking and erode other key consumer and environmental protections.
You may have noticed that it’s difficult to determine who supports the TPP and Fast Track, and who is aligned to fight against it. If you’re looking to split hairs, the best way to look at it is this: The Big Business lobby and Wall Street crowd are aggressively pushing for Fast Track and the TPP. It may be strange to consider, but many lefties and righties are united in their concern about the TPP and trade promotion authority for the same reasons, so this is not a red and a blue split.
If the big business lobby succeeds in lining up enough Congressional support for the TPP, here’s what’s at stake…
As more and more information becomes available to us about the dangers associated with fracking, more people join the call for a ban. The TPP, however, would call for more fracking to accommodate increased exports of liquefied natural gas.
More Imported, Minimally Inspected Seafood: The TPP would open up U.S. supermarkets to a flood of imported fish from countries that farm fish with fungicides, antibiotics and other chemicals that are illegal to use in the United States. Since the volume of imported fish would increase but the number of inspectors at the border would not, the number of uninspected shipments of potentially unsafe fish could end up in a grocery store near you.
No GMO Food Labeling
You have a right to know what’s in your food and if your food is sourced from genetically modified ingredients. The TPP would rally against any call for GMO food labeling, violating your consumer rights.
Many previous free trade agreements have disenfranchised American workers, undermined domestic policies and undermined more sensible approaches to economic development that would help other nations to grow their economies. But the TPP would take this even further. It will harm working families by increasing our reliance on imported food instead of furthering our trust in sustainable, locally grown food production. It will wreak havoc on the environment by increasing the production and exportation of liquefied natural gas from fracking that has already contaminated our air and water. It would even challenge our right to know if the ingredients in our food have been genetically modified.
But the most frightening aspect of the TPP might be the authority it grants corporate entities to attack the sovereignty of local citizenry and governments to establish safeguards appropriate to their own communities. Many decisions about public health, infrastructure and the environment that are currently made by our local city councils or county governments using the democratic process could actually be overturned by international corporate tribunals. Why? Because if your town votes to ban water privatization or fracking, for example, that decision might challenge the financial interests of a multinational corporation. Tragically, the TPP would allow financial interests to dictate how we manage public resources or dismantle the system of local, state and even federal protections we currently have in place to regulate food and water.
Right now, President Obama is seeking Fast Track authority to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the U.S.- EU Free Trade Agreement through Congress, which is why we should all pay close attention. The TPP would affect all of the issues we work on here at Food & Water Watch—from food safety, seafood imports and GMO labeling, to water privatization, water pollution and fracking—which is why it’s so critical that you get involved now by contacting your member of Congress to tell them to oppose this potentially devastating trade fiasco. As always, if you’d like to urge your Member of Congress to oppose the TPP right now, you can join our efforts.