In a recent article that set new levels of awful even for them, The Oregonian’s editorial board recently dismissed Trans-Pacific Partnership protesters as “entertaining” and lauded fast tracking the proposal as critical bipartisan legislation and par for the course as trade legislation. It completely glossed over the lack of transparency concerning the proposal or any of the leaked clauses that spurred the protests in the first place. Since The Oregonian didn’t see fit to mention any of the reasons the TPP is concerning, I picked some of the worst.
The lack of transparency is first and foremost one of the biggest issues. The term fast track refers to a process where the legislation is put before Congress for a simple yes or no vote without a committee process or amendments heard. Anything we know about the TPP so far is thanks to WikiLeaks because the negotiators who are writing the proposal are trying to keep it all under wraps.
In the investment chapter of the document, it specifies that whether or not the proposal is enacted, the chapter is to be confidential for four years. The fast track is an anti-democratic process that was originated by Nixon, and after five years of negotiations, it’s unacceptable how much we’ve been kept in the dark about a deal that would have such a massive impact.
Another clause from the investment chapter spells out a new type of court for investor-state disputes. These courts would operate outside the scope of other international authorities and allow corporations to sue governments for things like loss of expected profits. This type of lawsuit is already becoming common. Phillip Morris has been in the process of suing countries like Australia and Togo for harsh new tobacco labeling laws. Giving corporations more power to challenge progressive reforms is a terrible precedent to set, and it’s hard to imagine very many scenarios where the government getting sued by an international corporation is going to work out well for taxpayers or workers.
In a recent poll, 73 percent of Oregonians said they opposed the fast track. Trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization have cost Oregon tens of thousands of jobs. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden holds a key place on the United States Senate Committee on Finance where the fast track legislation is being developed. Obama and Wyden have talked about the TPP being important and beneficial for Oregon, but Oregonians have a right to be skeptical. Wyden is known for his attempts to be the bridge between parties and is often lauded for his bipartisan work, but what good is bipartisanship if he’s throwing his constituents under the bus to achieve it?
Take a few minutes to call Wyden’s office and ask for more transparency on the TPP. The TPP is a chance to enact real trade reforms and create new labor and environmental standards, and it will set the tone for renegotiating similar trade deals with European nations soon. But every leak makes the need for transparency and more public input more obvious. We deserve a better process than this.