The Zombie TPP, It’s Back!

Tim Canova 

Chair, Progress For All

The TPP — the Trans-Pacific Partnership — was the first issue that got me looking critically at my local Congresswoman’s record. In 2015, I joined with community activists at the Citizens Trade Campaign to lobby Florida’s congressional delegation against this terrible corporate giveaway. And we were sorely disappointed when Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Senator Bill Nelson became the state’s only Democrats to vote for fast-tracking the deal.

We had so many compelling reasons to oppose the TPP, an investment agreement between a dozen Pacific Rim countries. The TPP would have outsourced millions of American jobs in manufacturing and services to countries with virtually no labor or environmental protections. Moreover, the TPP’s “Investor Rights” provision would have allowed giant corporations to challenge our health, safety, and environmental laws, and not in U.S. courts, but in offshore arbitration panels with corporate lawyers serving as arbitration judges.

The TPP also opened a window into Wasserman Schultz’s record of raising millions of dollars from the largest corporations and taking care of their interests over those of working folks. All across the country, we saw other politicians lining up to sell out the American people with the TPP. But our grassroots movement stepped up and spoke out loud and clear against the TPP. We rallied behind Senator Bernie Sanders, who made it a big issue in his presidential campaign. Eventually, Hillary Clinton felt compelled to publicly change her position and oppose the TPP.

After Donald Trump’s election, we pulled together once again, organized on social media, and flooded Congress with phone calls and petitions against the TPP. We all cheered when the TPP died in the lame duck session of Congress. Now less than two months later, the worst features of the TPP are back in the proposed Trade in Services Agreement — TISA — another huge multilateral agreement that was negotiated in secret, this one involving 51 nations. And TISA has the same “Investor Rights” provision we just killed off in the TPP, but this time bigger than ever.

We know how the Investor Rights provision threatens our environmental protections. After President Obama cancelled the Keystone XL Pipeline for climate change reasons, TransCanada, an energy giant, announced it would bring a $15 billion lawsuit against the US government under a similar Investor Rights provision found in the North American Free Trade Agreement — NAFTA.

As many of you know, we are working hard to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing — otherwise known as “fracking.” In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded a five-year study, finding that fracking contaminates drinking water. Imagine if we are able to ban fracking in Florida and other states, only to have taxpayers forced to pay out billions of dollars to the fracking companies under a new TISA Investor Rights provision!

Likewise, if TISA is approved, foreign investors could threaten similar suits against our federal, state, and local governments for decisions to halt the construction of dangerous oil and gas pipelines, like the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Florida’s infamous Sabal Trail “Sinkhole” Pipeline.

In short, these Investor Rights provisions are inherently anti-democratic, violate our constitutional separation of powers, and undermine our national sovereignty. Don’t let the corporate establishment revive the worst aspects of the TPP in another huge Zombie deal.

As a professor who has taught and written in the area of international trade law for years, I can tell you Investor Rights have been a centerpiece of the corporate agenda against citizens for a long time. Conservative jurists and business interests attempted to enshrine such Investor Rights in the U.S. Constitution, specifically through a “regulatory takings” interpretation of the 5th Amendment requirement that the federal government pay just compensation when taking private property for a public purpose. They failed in that effort and ever since have attempted an end run around the Constitution through these Zombie trade deals and investment agreements.

Together, we will keep fighting against the corporate machine.

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