The Trans-Pacific Partnership sounds deadly boring. It’s not.
The potential impact on humanity from this proposed mega-deal is impossible to measure. TPP could bankrupt families in Kansas and enrich them in Kuala Lumpur. Or make patented medicine wildly unaffordable for sick people in poor places. Or even imprison citizens of 12 countries for pirating Game of Thrones episodes.
Or maybe, as its proponents claim, TPP could plug the US into Asia’s rising markets and give the global economy a needed jolt. Either way, if secured, it will be a corporation-friendly game changer for 800 million people.
The thing is, average people are banned from seeing its inner workings.
TPP, as it stands, is classified. The White House can see it. Leaders in negotiating nations can see it. About 600 reps from America’s most powerful corporations can see it.
But the American public is forbidden from perusing the deal, and the people they elect are barred from negotiations. Though Congress will eventually decide its fate, US lawmakers are increasingly frustrated at TPP’s intense secrecy. Given the way trade deals work on Capital Hill, they may get precious little time to review the colossal pact before deciding whether to make it law.
The secrecy has even riled up Obama’s own political camp.
“When I say we’ve been shut out, we have been shut out,” said Louise Slaughter, a Democrat Party congresswoman from New York. Her remarks came in advance of President Barack Obama’s late April tour of Asia, where he negotiated for TPP’s approval in Malaysia, the Philippines and Japan.
“Rumors that I have been hearing,” Slaughter said in a press call, “is that the financial services and pharmaceuticals sectors in the United States are really running this whole operation and they will be making out like bandits. Well, we don’t know.”
Another lawmaker, Congressman Alan Grayson, contends that the agreement “hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.” Even prominent economist Paul Krugman, a free trade proponent, calls it “almost weirdly out of touch with both economic and political reality.”
What little we know about TPP comes from a few leaked documents. (Thanks, Wikileaks.) As a free-trade deal, its core mission is killing fees for imports and exports between every country involved.
But TPP also appears to push major restrictions on the free flow of internet content, life-saving medicine and much more.