OP-ED: TPP is what’s wrong with U.S. trade policy

By Larry Cohen
Chairman of Our Revolution
Featured Monday October 3, 2016 in the Quad City Times

Which side are you on?

That’s the question voters should be asking members of Congress as they return home to campaign, but in many districts House members are avoiding all questions about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). “I haven’t read it yet,” is a favorite answer when voters ask members of the House of Representatives where they stand. These members have had the document for nearly a year, and its 5,544 pages will never be read by most of them, but they have an obligation to take a position now and inform voters now not after an election when they are voting on it in a lame duck session of Congress.

Iowa CCI Action, the Communications Workers and Our Revolution will be holding a series of town hall meetings across Iowa from Oct. 5-8. We will be discussing the TPP and mobilizing opposition but most importantly demanding that all candidates for the House and Senate tell us which side they are on. TPP will be the major issue facing Congress for at least the rest of 2016—it is unacceptable for House members or candidates to say they don’t know where they stand or that they haven’t read it.

Opposition to TPP in Iowa is similar across our nation—Democrats, Republicans and Independents want a new model for globalization. Trade is popular, but a global economy increasingly dominated by ever larger multinational corporations is not working for working Americans. Wall Street and the finance sector, not main street and working class Americans are benefiting from every deal, which have little to do with trade and much more to do with creating rules that protect the profits of investors.

Around our nation and around the world a populist revolution is growing and the rigged global economy is a major cause. Consider Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) – a clause that allows multinational corporations to sue governments in international tribunals. Since adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, nearly all US trade agreements have included ISDS. ISDS has nothing to do with reducing tariffs or promoting trade. Instead, ISDS is about encouraging foreign investment by guaranteeing that governments will do nothing to reduce future profits of foreign investors. If regulations or legislation are adopted that impact profits, the multinational corporation can sue in a secret global tribunal, instead of a national court. The loss of sovereignty, as well as the bias towards foreign investment profits, are key reasons to demand a new trade regime and reject TPP.

Multinational corporations are suing the U.S. and dozens of other nations for billions including the recent suit by TransCanada against the U.S., demanding $15 billion in reparations for denying the Keystone pipeline. TransCanada is not attempting to recoup investment losses but instead full compensation for the loss of future profits on that potential investment.

Contrast this with violations of environmental, food safety, health or labor sections of the agreements. In these cases, no secret global tribunals or reparations. Instead, reports that are discussed between governments and take years to process. Even in the best of cases nothing results but new promises. Citizens get reports, discussions, and at best new promises, multinational corporations get reparations.

A new trade regime would create balance between investor’s rights and the rights of citizens. A new trade regime would place our jobs and communities, and our rights as consumers above the rights of multinational companies. For example, instead of celebrating new protections for pharmaceutical corporations to set prices and block regulation, we would celebrate trade deals that promote the rights of all of us.

Larry Cohen is chairman of Our Revolution, the successor organization to the Bernie Sanders campaign for president. Cohen will be the featured speaker at a series of “Stop TPP” town hall meetings from Oct. 5-Oct.8. Click here to find the meeting closest to you.


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