January 7, 2016
by David Korten

Last night I posted the following public comment regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on www.regulations.gov.

This morning I sent copies to my two senators Patti Murray and Maria Cantwell and to my representative Derek Kilmer. To my great dismay, all three of them joined with the Republican majority to approve Fast Track for the TPP over the opposition of most of their Democratic colleagues. Either they have joined President Obama in buying into the U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman’s misrepresentations of the agreement or they are solidly in the pockets of the corporations that the agreement benefits.
U.S. Trade Representative (with copies to the WA delegation).

This is my response to your call for public comment on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its impact on American jobs.

I have seen a consistent pattern over the past 20 plus years. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the President negotiate and sell each new trade agreement to Congress and the American people with the promise that it will increase American exports to create new American jobs. The greatest export growth turns out to be in the export of high wage American jobs to countries with low wages and worker protections.

The public interest group Public Citizen concludes that, if passed, the TPP will:

  • Make it easier for big corporations to ship our jobs overseas, pushing down our wages and increasing income inequality,
  • Flood our country with unsafe imported food,
  • Jack up the cost of medicines by giving big pharmaceutical corporations new monopoly rights to keep lower cost generic drugs off the market,
  • Empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards,
  • Ban Buy American policies needed to create green jobs,
  • Roll back Wall Street reforms,
  • Sneak in SOPA-like threats to Internet freedom, and
  • Undermine human rights.

With each new agreement, the President and USTR assure us that this time it will be different. It invariably turns out that the primary difference is that each new agreement facilitates the export of American jobs to additional countries with low wages and worker protections and adds new provisions that advance corporate rights and profits at the expense of democracy, people, and nature.

As documentation, I direct you to Public Citizen’s “Initial Analyses of Key TPP Chapters”.

Behind the obfuscation and misrepresentation, we know that the TPP was negotiated in secret by and for the world’s largest transnational corporations. Its provisions subordinate the U.S. Constitution, decisions of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the democratic voice of the people to the rulings of secret international trade tribunals in which the judges are unelected corporate trade lawyers. As with previous such agreements, the TPP circumvents normal democratic safeguards in order to subvert democracy, the U.S. Constitution, worker rights, national sovereignty, public health and safety, and the environment.

The agreement’s 30 chapters and thousands of pages feature tediously detailed technical language and exception clauses. It would take months of intensive research for even an experienced trade lawyer to decipher its actual implications. Yet the public and Congress are guaranteed only three months to review it and Congress is limited to perfunctory debate and denied the right to make amendments.

As with previous trade agreements, the obvious intention is to circumvent the Constitution, democracy and the democratic will of the people to advance the rights, interests, and profits of transnational corporations.

Senators and Representatives who vote for it will be in violation of their oath of office to “support and defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi argued in her June 15, 2015 op-ed in USA Today, international agreements like the TPP are based on an outdated model. We need a new framework for such agreements that puts the public interest clearly ahead of corporate interests.

The TPP is another step in exactly the wrong direction. I urge rejection. It is time to frame a new approach to the global economy that puts democracy, people, nature, and the public good ahead of corporate interests and profits.

David Korten
Author, When Corporations Rule the World; The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth; and Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth.

President, Living Economies Forum 
Founder/Board Chair, YES! Magazine 
Co-Chair, New Economy Working Group