Who are you going to believe — Senator Elizabeth Warren or Congressman Jared Polis?
At Public Citizen’s annual gala in May, Warren launched an attack on backroom trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated: “From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the deal in the upcoming trade talks. So the question is, Why are the trade talks secret? You’ll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill,” Warren said. “I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.’
“Think about that. Real people, people whose jobs are at stake, small-business owners who don’t want to compete with overseas companies that dump their waste in rivers and hire workers for a dollar a day — those people, people without an army of lobbyists — they would be opposed. I believe if people across this country would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then maybe that trade agreement should not happen.”
By contrast, Congressman Polis has straddled the fence on both fast track authority and the TPP. He is “troubled by the lack of transparency in the U.S. TPP negotiations” and says he won’t support a deal which undermines protections for the environment, consumers and workers.
But he gets wishy-washy. In a letter to a constituent, he said: “You are exactly right that the United States must not sign on to any trade pact that has the power to reverse laws passed within our borders, and you may be pleased to know that under the TPP, no government — whether local, state, or federal — can ever be forced to change its laws or regulations. I would never support any deal that undermined municipal laws — such as the local fracking bans many communities in our district have passed through referenda — or compelled our cities and towns to use foreign products over locally produced goods. In addition, some labor groups have rightfully expressed opposition to any trade provisions that would allow companies to challenge laws simply because they damage their profits. Fortunately, the TPP includes no such provisions. The agreement only provides protection of basic rights — like non-discrimination — that are already protected by U.S. law.”
Leaked TPP documents contradict Polis’ claims. (See “TPP Wikileaked: U.S. Watering Down Enviro Protections in Secret Trade Deal” http://billmoyers. com/2014/01/16/tpp-wikileaked-uswatering-down-enviro-protections-insecret-trade-deal/ )
The TPP is being negotiated between 12 Pacific Rim economies, including Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. Since the 1990s, the global business elite has pushed secretive deregulations and the creation of new corporate investor rights by way of trade negotiations which began with NAFTA and the WTO. But the TPP is now being called “NAFTA on steriods.” Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, notes that “the TPP now threatens a slow-motion stealth attack against a century of progressive domestic policy. At stake is nothing less than a democratic society’s ability to regulate a market economy in the broad public interest.”
Canada is threatening fundamental aspects of the U.S. Dodd-Frank financial re-regulation law as violating NAFTA. The European Commission staff claims that the proposed financial-transaction tax conflicts with European WTO com mitments. Billions in U.S. stimulus money leaked offshore because of limits on “Buy America” procurement preferences already established in past trade pacts. The WTO ruled against U.S. dolphin-safe tuna and country-of-origin meat labeling as well as the ban on candy-flavored cigarettes, which is aimed at curbing youth smoking, as violating U.S. trade obligations.
Wallach says that under NAFTAstyle pacts, “more than $350 million has been paid to investors by governments in disputes over such issues as toxic-wastedump permits, logging rules, and bans on toxic substances. Currently, there are more than $12 billion in pending corporate attacks on environmental, transportation and public-health policy under existing U.S. free-trade agreements — and the proposed TPP would create vast new opportunities for litigation. Even when governments win, they waste scarce budgetary resources defending national policies against these corporate attacks.”
Despite a media blackout about the TPP, it’s in trouble due to a wide-ranging citizen coalition against it. Keep up the pressure.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.