Wednesday morning, Public Citizen, a consumer rights advocacy group, released a leaked trade agreement document — the most controversial of the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact. In it, the U.S. agrees to let international trade tribunals overrule American law in the interested of any of 8 pacific nations.
The concessions come to an affront to environmentalists, labor unions, and financial reform advocates, and directly contravene every provision given by Obama in his 2008 campaign promise:
“We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens’ give greater rights to foreign investors than the U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications.”
Such international trade tribunals have already rules against the fairness of U.S dolphin-safe tuna labeling and anti-teen smoking efforts as unfair barriers to trade, and our “Buy American” preferences in government contracting negations will be eliminated.
“The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of [trade] negotiations,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
Indeed, members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, have complained and even considered litigation to respond to Obama’s secrecy, barring them from information about the negations while allowing corporate heads to routinely be a part of the process.
Upon reading this latest document and the previously leaked document on intellectual property, and regarding what they mean for our access to life-saving medication, Judit Rius, the U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicine Campaign said that “Bush was better than Obama on this. It’s pathetic, but it is what it is. The world’s upside-down.”
In response to the widespread criticism of the leaded document, USTR spokesman Nkenge Harmon said “This administration is committed to ensuring strong environmental, public health, and safety laws. Nothing in our TPP investment proposal could impair our government’s ability to ensure legitimate non-discriminatory public interest regulation, including measures to protect public health, public safety and the environment.”
It would be up to the international tribunals, however, to interpret “legitimate,” and “non-discriminatory.”
“Our worst fears about the investment chapter have been confirmed by this leaked text … This investment chapter would severely undermine attempts to strengthen environmental law and policy,” said Margrete Strand Rangnes, director of Labor and Trade for the the environmental group the Sierra Club.
This upcoming week will detail the aftermath of the leak as the President and others respond.