By Margaret Flowers, member of the Stop the TPP contingent.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens our work to take meaningful action to end the fossil and nuclear fuels era, build a renewable energy economy and address the climate crisis. Supporters of the TPP are pushing to ratify it this fall during the lame duck session of Congress (after the election). It is critical that we march in Philadelphia to spread the word that the TPP must be stopped.
The TPP is an international agreement that was negotiated with twelve Pacific Rim nations in secret from 2009 until its completion in October, 2015. Leaders of the twelve countries signed the TPP in New Zealand last February and now they have two years to ratify it. During the negotiations, corporate executives had direct access to the text and wrote it to suit their interests, while members of Congress had limited access and were not allowed to speak publicly about what they read. The TPP negotiators wanted to keep the text secret for four years after it was signed, but leaked text and public pressure forced the release of the text.
In the spring of 2015, after years of being stalled, legislation was passed that allows agreements like the TPP to be fast tracked through Congress without amendments, with limited debate and a forced up or down vote within 90 days. Fast track was used to pass other harmful agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Now, the Obama administration wants to go a step further away from democracy by sneaking ratification of the TPP through Congress during the lame duck session after the elections in November. We are organizing to stop that. Visit FlushtheTPP.org/nolameduck/ for more information.
We urge those who are concerned about climate justice to join in the fight to stop the TPP because the TPP will irreversibly undermine our work to address the climate crisis. Unlike the Paris Treaty which set voluntary goals, the TPP is a binding agreement that empowers transnational corporations to defeat those goals.
Under the TPP, which does not mention climate change once in its thousands of pages, corporations can sue governments that put new laws in place calling for greater regulation of industry, ban practices such as drilling or fracking for oil and gas or incentivize clean energy. These laws that serve the public interest and protect the planet will be treated as “barriers to trade.” And corporations can sue, not just for perceived damages, but also for lost future profits, which means billions of dollars.
The court in which these cases are heard is an international trade tribunal where the judges are corporate lawyers on leave from their jobs. Just like the revolving door in Washington, DC between industry and government where laws are passed to benefit the industries, these corporate judges will have a revolving door in which they can make legal decisions to benefit their interests and then return to practice to use those decisions. The trade tribunal’s decisions cannot be challenged by our court system, not even in the Supreme Court.
The impact of giving corporations greater power to sue governments is that it will change our laws. The threat of facing expensive law suits in a rigged court system that can impose billion dollar fines is enough to prevent lawmakers from having the courage to take the corporations on. It is a subversion of our democracy and sovereignty to corporate power. One recent example is TransCanada’s $15 billion lawsuit under NAFTA against the US government for not permitting the Northern portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
In addition to that, the TPP will fast track permits for exporting more oil and gas to Asia, which will drive more fracking and drilling, bans Buy American provisions that would allow us to prioritize manufacturing of clean energy and transit in the US and contains weak and unenforceable environmental protections. In short, the TPP is a climate disaster and must be stopped. We must demand a new model of trade that is consistent with the goals of the Paris Treaty, that empowers our communities to demand stronger standards for energy and the environment and that uplifts workers around the world through fair trade standards.
Our work for climate justice must include stopping international agreements like the TPP and its sisters, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Agreement and the Trade in Services Agreement. We are in a strong position to do that. The opportunity is here. March with the Stop the TPP contingent in the Clean Energy March to make the strength of our movement visible and join the No Lame Duck Uprising.