If we were to begin this piece about free trade agreements those of you who have no clue what NAFTA or CAFTA represent would just click your mouse and move on.
What if we begin with these headlines:
Since NAFTA the US has lost over 3 million manufacturing jobs!
Since NAFTA 54,000 manufacturing plants have closed!
Since NAFTA 300,000 family farms have gone out of business!
Since NAFTA and WTO, the US Trade Deficit has jumped to over $700 Billion Dollars
Do these headlines catch your attention? They ought to because your standard of living is tied directly to the economy within the United States.
What if I were tell you that President Obama along with US Trade Representative Michael Froman are working diligently on passing yet another “free trade” agreement horrifically labeled “NAFTA on steroids.” Would you want to know more? I bet you would.
For the last six years, corporate representatives have met in secret to hammer out the details of the next “free trade agreement” between the United States and 12 other nations bordering the Asian rim. This agreement is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The other participating nations include: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Do you remember during the 1992 Presidential debates when Ross Perot said that the free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico would cause a huge sucking sound of manufacturers moving south? He very clearly explained that big business follows the path of least resistance, meaning lower labor and environmental protection costs.
The above headlines regarding our sinking economy since the implementation of NAFTA proves the accuracy of Mr. Perot's predictions. What do you think is going to happen when we open trading with Vietnam where their minimum wage is less than $55 per month? There will be another huge sucking sound this time to south Asia.
What is really scary is that President Obama is asking Congress to basically give up their Constitutional right to negotiate international trade (Article 1 Section 8) by awarding him a negotiating tool called Trade Promotion Authority. Formerly called Fast Track Authority, this tool has been implemented to pass bad trade policy like NAFTA. It gives the negotiating power to the executive branch, limits the amount of time that the House and Senate can debate the trade agreement and restrict Congress to not making any amendments on the TPP or any other free trade agreement that would be considered during the next five years it is in effect. Quite simply the trade agreement becomes a take it or leave it proposition.
So, what is exactly contained in this “free trade agreement” that President Obama hailed in his State of the Union address? That is a great question. It is difficult to give a straight answer because the draft text which consist of over 450 pages and 29 chapters have been heavily guarded from the public as well as our Congress members!
Representative Alan Grayson was granted time to review the draft after months of requests. Not allowed to take notes, nor photos and having had to sign that he would not divulge actual details, he emerged by saying, “Having seen what I've seen, I would characterize this as a gross abrogation of American sovereignty, and I would further characterize it as a punch in the face to the middle class of America.” He further said, “It's all about tying the hands of democratically elected governments, and shunting authority over to the nonelected for the benefit of multinational corporations. It's an assault on democratic government.”
From leaked texts we know that only 5 of the 29 chapters actually deal with trade. The balance of the chapters basically gives the multinational corporations carte blanche to do what they want, where they want, when they want. No local, state or national regulations will be safe from scrutiny or prosecution by big business if they deem the laws to prohibit future potential profits. A provision called “Investor State Dispute Settlement” will allow corporations to actually sue government agencies for health, safety or environmental protections that they feel will impede future earnings. The United States has already paid out over $350 million to foreign investors due to bans on toxic substances, land use rules and timber policies, and we continue to face another $12 billion more in claims thanks to NAFTA.
What does this mean for you?
- Loss of jobs and lower wages, greater income inequality
- Health and safety laws will be attacked resulting in dangerous working conditions.
- Imported food that does not meet our US safety guidelines
- Labeling of foods not allowed
- Continued deregulation of financial markets that could lead to another financial meltdown
- No “Buy American” or “Buy Local” campaigns used to rebuild our economy
- Increased medical patents resulting in higher price medicines and surgeries
- Your internet freedom will be undermined by severe copyright laws
- The quality of our water, earth and air will be severely compromised by the destruction of environmental protections.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg! At this point you may be scratching your head and wondering why would Obama and other Congress members be pushing something that will figuratively put the nail in the coffin of our dying economy?
Follow the money? Who benefits? The TPP replicates the worst of past damaging trade deals on offshoring and more, but it champions outrageous new corporate-favored terms that benefit the multinational corporations to the detriment of the residents of participating nations. The continued push for Fast Track now known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to further the advancement of fake free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and its kissing cousin following on its tail, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is proof positive that we are living in an oligarchy where the 1/10 of the 1% hold power.
Folks, if you are a small business owner, you need to be involved in stopping these deals. The deals are for BIG BUSINESS as in huge transnational corporations, not for small business. If you are a working professional, you need to be worried. This time it’s not manufacturing that is going to get hit, it's white collar professionals. The Asian rim has been preparing for this and educating their cheap workforce to take your jobs. If you are retired, you need to be concerned as these provisions will severely impact your Medicare as well as your quality of life. In short, WE ARE ALL AFFECTED!!! So we all need to be involved in stopping this huge give away to the fascists that are running the globalization of our planet.
“Instead of focusing on boosting wages for the middle class, Congress is speeding toward another NAFTA-style deal. We’ve been told that previous trade deals would bring jobs and growth, only to find out that the benefits had been way oversold and the consequences had been severely underestimated, said Senator Bob Casey. “When it comes to debating economic policies we should consider whether they will grow middle class wages, create new jobs and bolster our manufacturing sector. Trade Promotion Authority legislation does none of these things.”
What can you do? The concern over the dangers associated with Fast Track and the secretive trade agreements are shared by those on the right and left side of the aisle. During the fall of 2013 Democrats and Republican Congress members wrote letters telling President Obama they would NOT support Fast Track Authority. The new Trade Promotion Authority bill has been released by both the Senate and the House. Senate Bill 995 passed in the Finance Committee and House Bill 1890 passed in the Ways and Means Committee. Both bills will be headed to their respective floors for final vote soon. We need to take action NOW!
Call your US Representative and US Senator and tell them that you want them to vote NO on Fast Track aka Trade Promotion Authority. Tell them you want them to their job which is to negotiate FAIR trade for our country. Tell them we want them to take their time going through the proposed “free trade agreements” and that they need to be able to amend the deal if it is necessary to do so to protect our rights and democratic process.
Congressional Switchboard is 202-224-3121
To Find Your Congress Member:www.contactingthecongress.org