< Back to Trans-Pacific Partnership
The TPP was a controversial 12-nation, corporate-rigged “free trade” agreement signed by President Barack Obama in early 2016 that failed to obtain majority support in the U.S. Congress after a massive grassroots campaign against the deal. In 2017, the United States notified the other signatory nations that it would not ratify the pact.
Negotiations for the TPP started in the George W. Bush administration and after a short pause, President Barack Obama continued talks following Bush’s agenda. In an amazing feat of international people power prevailing over multinational corporate power, the efforts of citizens united around the world delayed the completion of a TPP deal for years. During that period, people in the U.S. became educated about the TPP’s threats and organized their neighbors, colleagues and friends and as a result, it was impossible for TPP’s corporate proponents to ever achieve a majority in Congress to pass the deal.
From the time it was signed in February 2016 until the end of the lame-duck session of Congress in December 2016, the deal remained scores of votes short of approval in the House of Representatives. Shortly after being sworn in as president, Donald Trump formally announced that the United States would not approve the deal, effectively trying to take credit for what already was a reality: The TPP was dead on arrival in the U.S. Congress.
The multi-year delay on the TPP being signed was achieved by thousands of diverse organizations representing working people united across borders — fighting against corporate power and for the environment, health, human rights and democracy. The TPP was the first U.S. trade agreement that failed to obtain a majority in the U.S. Congress.
A Vast Expansion of Corporate Power
Although it was called a “trade” agreement, the TPP was not mainly about trade. Of the TPP’s 30 chapters, only six dealt with traditional trade issues. The TPP text was the result of 500 official U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests involved in years of closed-door negotiations while the public, press and Congress were locked out.
At the heart of the TPP were new rights for thousands of corporations to sue the U.S. government before a panel of three corporate lawyers that could award unlimited sums, including for loss of future expected profits, to be paid by American taxpayers when the corporations claim U.S. policies violate the new entitlements the TPP would provide them. The TPP also included extreme new monopoly protections for pharmaceutical firms that blocked competition and ensure high medicine prices. The deal’s environmental standards, negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama’s trade ambassador Mike Froman, were a roll back from those included in the last four agreements negotiated by George W Bush. The labor standards replicated ones that had failed to stop egregious labor abuses in agreements with other countries, and the TPP included several nations notorious for labor abuses.
Dangers of the TPP
We must remain vigilant to fight against any future attempts to revive the TPP or enact other corporate-rigged deals like it. Had Congress not refused to enact it, the TPP would have:
- expanded powers for corporations to attack U.S. environmental and health safeguards,
- made it easier for big corporations to ship U.S. jobs overseas, pushing down our wages and increasing income inequality,
- flooded the United States with unsafe imported food, including seafood,
- snuck in threats to internet freedom,
- jacked up the cost of medicines by giving big pharmaceutical corporations new monopoly rights to keep lower cost generic drugs off the market,
- waived Buy American policies needed to create green jobs,
- rolled back Wall Street reforms, and
- undermined human rights.
On March 8, 2018, in an attempt to lure the United States to reconsider participation, the remaining 11 TPP countries — including Canada and Mexico — agreed to proceed with the deeply flawed TPP model, which they cynically renamed “Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership.” While some of the most egregious provisions pushed by Big Pharma that would have further threatened access to life-saving medicines were fortunately set aside (for now) in the revised TPP-11 deal, most of the TPP’s dangerous rules remain intact. Canada, Mexico and the others nations agreed to maintain the TPP’s expanded version of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) with only some minor tweaks.
The U.S. corporate lobby worked hard to resurrect some of the worst provisions of the TPP in the revised NAFTA. That includes terms that pharmaceutical firms rigged onto the deal that would lock in high medicine prices and expansive constraints on the regulation of online platforms and consumer data privacy. The firms have launched multi-million dollar campaigns to pass the deal with these corporate terms intact, while congressional Democrats and consumer and labor groups demand changes.