For 130 million working Americans, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is, as Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison (D) described so well, the “largest corporate power grab you never heard of.”
After 19 rounds of negotiations between the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, TPP remains a mystery to everyone except government trade negotiators and the corporate lobbyists who get to read all the proposals.
Even Members of Congress have real no idea of what's involved in the negotiations.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), has seen some of the proposals. TPP is “a punch in the face to the middle class of America … but I'm not allowed to tell you why,” he said.
In addition to the secrecy, trade negotiators are counting on “fast track” authority, which blocks any changes or amendments to the trade deal and only allows for an “up or down” vote by Congress. Stopping or changing fast track is the only real way to change TPP.
TPP is bad for working families, because, like nearly every other trade agreement that's been negotiated by the U.S. in the past 20 years, TPP isn't concerned with U.S. workers or jobs. Every other nation starts out with jobs and the economy as their priorities. The U.S. unfortunately has a different focus, and looks at trade in terms of national security and global corporate interests, not ensuring the economic well-being of working families.
Here's a good example. The minimum wage in Vietnam, one of the proposed member nations of TPP, is 25 cents an hour. U.S. workers should not compete with workers who earn 25 cents an hour. But multinational corporations, in this continuing race to the bottom, will be happy to send jobs to Vietnam and every other subsistence-wage nation.
It's not just manufacturing jobs. We're talking service sector work, including information technology and tech support jobs. “Buy America” policies, call center legislation to keep good jobs here and stop taxpayer handouts to companies that offshore jobs, environmental standards, and even public health efforts would be disallowed or dramatically weakened.
Foreign firms would be given equal access to bidding on U.S. federal government contracts, and private corporations from other countries would be able to challenge U.S. laws and regulations, including those dealing with telecom, health and the environment, if they think our laws limit their “expected future profits.”
Without a floor for wages and workers' rights, U.S. workers will again lose out. Our 20 years of experience in trade deals, going back to NAFTA, has proven that U.S. jobs go offshore and the jobs that are created here are low wage, no benefit jobs. That's not the future Americans want for themselves or their children.
We have built a strong coalition that's working together to get full participation in these negotiations, and to stop fast track if that doesn't happen. No citizens groups have been involved to any extent so far in these negotiations but we have been making our voices heard.
Unions; greens, including Sierra Club and Greenpeace; consumer and citizen action groups like Citizens Trade Campaign and Public Citizen; public health groups; and people of faith all are working for changes in or rejection of this deal.
We must pursue economic policies and trade policies for American workers, just as the Vietnamese and other nations are pushing policies in their own interests. Clearly, we don't have much in common with countries that pay workers 25 cents an hour, nor should we. Again, it's time to stand up and fight back.
This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post.