The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is one of the largest trade agreements in history involving the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The nations have been negotiating the deal since 2005, with global resistance growing since 2012. Now that President Obama has signed into law Trade Promotion Authority, or ‘“fast track”, the trade agreement is expected to be presented to Congress before the end of the year. Under Fast Track, Congress only has an “up” or “down” vote on the TPP and can not amend the agreement.
Following the passing of Fast Track it was reported that a provision was included that allowed the State Department to upgrade Malaysia’s status on human trafficking in order to comply with U.S. laws on trade. TechDirt reports:
“Earlier this week, we wrote about a troubling move by the US State Department to “upgrade” Malaysia from a “tier 3” country to a “tier 2” country regarding human trafficking. This move came despite a near total lack of evidence of any improvement by Malaysia. In fact, just two months ago 139 mass graves were discovered for migrant workers who had been trafficked and/or held for ransom. And the US ambassador to Malaysia had publicly criticized the country for failing to tackle its massive human trafficking problem.
So why would the State Department magically upgrade Malaysia? Well, because of a tiny provision in the fast track “Trade Promotion Authority” deal that Congress recently passed. It noted that fast track authority would not apply to trade deals involving countries that were categorized as “tier 3” by the State Department. In other words, this should have given the US tremendous leverage to push Malaysia to really tackle the problem. Instead, because it appears that the administration is so focused on getting the TPP officially finished and ratified, it got the State Department to just magically upgrade Malaysia, and effectively spit on the graves of those murdered migrant workers.”
Once the news began to spread, 19 Senators wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry demanding answers.
“Fighting human trafficking is one of the great moral challenges of our time. It is therefore with grave concern that we now hear Malaysia may be upgraded in this year’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report based on developments that occurred after the end of the review period. A premature upgrade of Malaysia would undermine the integrity of the TIP report process and compromise our international efforts to fight human trafficking.”
These allegations are only the latest criticisms of the TPP. The critics of the TPP come from a wide spectrum of activists, doctors and religious leaders. The most-cited issue with the trade deal is the granting of authority to international tribunals which will have the power to override court rulings within the individual nation states.
As the trade agreement nears completion both the Anglican and Catholic churches of New Zealand are demanding that the government be more transparent about the negotiations. Radio NZ reports that bishops from the churches are concerned with the lack of openness and that corporate interests are influencing the agreement while the people are being excluded. The churches also called on the New Zealand government to make the draft text of the agreement public.
In early February, doctors and health professional representing seven countries released a letter warning that the TPP will lead to higher medical costs for all nations. The letter, published in The Lancet medical journal, states that, “Rising medicine costs would disproportionately affect already vulnerable populations.” The doctors called on the governments involved in the trade deal to publicly release the full text of the agreement. They also demanded an independent analysis of the impacts on health and human rights for each nation involved in the deal.
Also in February, an analysis by The Washington Post revealed the US government’s numbers on expected job increases from TPP are not factually correct. The Fact Checker examined several quotes from government officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Both Kerry and Vilsack claimed the international trade agreement would create 650,000 new jobs. However, these numbers do not take into account income gains and changing wages. According to the government own sources imports and exports would increase by the same amount resulting in a net number of zero new jobs.
The U.S. government’s willingness to ignore human trafficking allegations goes to show that this nation has no interest in “human rights” and only uses the phrase when it is convenient to their goals of global hegemony. The people have only the illusion of representation. If we are to create a truly free world we must begin to look to our communities for answers and not the State.