The Trans-Pacific partnership – bad for Maine

Coming soon to you: the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” trade agreement (TPP).

It will affect you because, among other things, it enables any corporation in one of its participating countries to sue any participating country’s government – national, state or local – whose action the corporation says has hurt its investments or profits.

It doesn’t matter if that government action is for your benefit or your welfare as a consumer, a citizen or small business. You as a tax payer can end up paying for the suit and/or losing the benefit.

The TPP is often called “NAFTA on steroids,” referring to the earlier North American Free Trade Agreement. That supposedly job-creating agreement drained 700,000 decent-paying jobs from the U.S. It created the conditions in Mexico and Central America that ballooned the migration of illegal aliens.

The negotiations on the TPP among (now) 12 countries in North and South America and Asia have been going on since 2005. But before the present year, and perhaps even now, almost no Americans knew this was happening.

That’s no accident. The negotiations have been held totally in secret. They are classified, secret even from Congress, at least until very recently.

But these talks have not been kept secret from corporate America. In 2014, there were 566 advisory group members with input into the negotiations, 480 of whom represented industry groups or trade associations. The only peek inside the TPP that the general public has had has been from a few unauthorized leaks.

Not to worry? The President, who is pushing the TPP, has said he will never let consumers down. So why is he now, as we speak, pushing Congress to pass it virtually sight unseen?

The answer is that the TPP is not about public benefit or even strictly about trade. Leaks indicate that only a few of its chapters have to do with trade. The rest is about corporate profits and power. The large financial, energy, electronics and other industries pushing the TPP – and having input into it – are looking out for their profits, not for jobs or consumer benefits or public health and wellbeing, or even constitutional democracy.

The provision that enables corporations to sue governments, involves Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). If a company claims that a decision, a law, a rule, a regulation, whatever, made by a government in any way harms its profits, it can sue.

The ISDS provision says it addresses the problem of “expropriating or nationalizing a covered investment either directly or indirectly.” But the TPP’s definition of investment and the scope of the term indirectly are so broad that it can easily come to apply to simply reforming regulations.

And these disputes are argued under corporate-favorable rules in unaccountable international tribunals set up by the U.N. or World Bank.

ISDS has existed in earlier trade agreements, but never with such potentially large opponents as we would face in the TPP.

Do you like the idea of a “Made in U.S.A.” requirement for government contracts? Do you think environmental or food- or labor-safety laws are a good idea in Maine? They’re all potential sources of lawsuits. And who pays for such lawsuits? Tax payers.

Sounds like taxation without representation, doesn’t it?

And it gets worse. The TPP is open ended. Any additional countries can join without any further congressional approval.

Under the TPP, the U.S. will lose sovereignty, our elections will mean less than they do now, and the local self-determination we value will be eroded.

You’d think that something like this, which essentially violates the national sovereignty embedded in our Constitution, would require a discussion approaching the care appropriate for a constitutional amendment, or at least a careful, detailed consideration.

But no. The President, his trade representative and a host of lobbyists for giant corporations are pushing Congress right now to pass Fast-Track status for the TPP. If that happens, then when Congress finally gets the TPP – probably over a thousand pages of complex legalese – it will have perhaps 24 hours to discuss it, no opportunity to amend its worst features, and will have to vote simply “yes” or “no.”

Our national sovereignty, our civil rights and liberties, and our well-being are not partisan issues. Please contact our delegation now and tell them you support neither Fast Track, nor the TPP as it is currently set up.

Senator Susan Collins: 202-224-2523. Senator Angus King: 202-224-5344. Representative Bruce Poliquin: 202-225-6116.

Dick Atlee

Southwest Harbor


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