Early this morning in Atlanta, trade bureaucrats from the dozen Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries finalized details of the controversial trade pact, which will now be sent on to Congress for approval. The TPP talks have been ongoing since 2008 and big business, Wall Street, mainstream Republicans and the Obama administration have been pushing to wrap up the deal sooner rather than later.
Over the summer, talks that were supposed to finalize the deal ended in stalemate even though the trade Ministers were sequestered in a sunny Hawaiian resort. The sticking points that stymie the trade negotiators (and their corporate advisors) remain the same in this round of negotiations and in most cases the disputes pit narrow business interests against the broader public interest.
Workers, the environment and public health will come out the loser in these fights pitting pharmaceutical company patents versus patients; dairy processing companies versus dairy farmers; Japanese auto companies sourcing auto parts from low-wage countries versus U.S. auto workers; and tobacco companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce versus efforts to curb smoking. As Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz pointed out this week, this is a deal designed “to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies.”
The talks dragged on for days in Atlanta, and at the last minute the negotiators ironed out the differences. Although all the details have not been released, you can bet that the corporations did better than the public. For example, the United States forced most TPP countries to accept longer patents on biologic drugs (but not quite as long as the pharmaceutical and biotech industries demanded).
The finished deal will land in Congress right in the middle of the presidential race. The earliest Congress could vote is four and a half months after the negotiators finalize the deal — which would mean mid-February 2016, after the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary but just before Nevada and South Carolina cast their votes and a few weeks before Super Tuesday.
The congressional politics of trade has been complicated by Republican Party infighting. Traditionally, the Republican establishment has pushed trade deals favored by its corporate backers, but the divisions between the more populist wing and the country club wing of the party could undermine the traditional base of support for corporate trade agreements.
The national movement to block trade deals that put big business before the public is already working to stop the TPP dead in its tracks. It is long past time for Congress to stand up for workers, the environment and public health and reject these corporate trade deals. Contact your members of Congress TODAY and urge them to oppose the TPP.