President Obama is currently pressing members of Congress to pass Fast Track authority for a trade and investment agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). If Fast Track passes, it means that Congress must approve or deny the TPP with minimal debate and no amendments. Astonishingly, our lawmakers have not seen the agreement they are being asked to expedite.
The TPP is presented as an agreement to increase U.S. exports and jobs. But what is really at stake is democracy–in the United States as well as in the 11 other Pacific Rim countries that are parties to the TPP.
Given past agreements on which the TPP is modeled, including the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA), TPP provisions will likely have significant implications for nearly every aspect of American life–including intellectual property rights, labor and environmental protections, consumer safety and product labeling, government procurement, and national resource management. Given the way these agreements are crafted, we can be quite certain that the implications will favor corporate profits over human well-being. And once the agreement is approved, its provisions will trump national and local laws, including the U.S. Constitution, and will not be subject to review or revision by any national legislative or judicial body–including the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is expected that the TPP will include an Investor State Dispute Settlement provision that gives foreign corporations the right to sue governments for lost profits due to laws–such as environmental standards and safeguards for workers–they claim deprive them of revenue they might otherwise have received. Such claims are settled in tribunals comprised of trade lawyers whose identities are secret. The rulings of these tribunals pre-empt national laws and the decisions of national courts and are not subject to review by any national judicial or legislative body.