6/17/2016: Proposed Action of Immediate Witness: Stop the TPP, by Dick Burkhart


Last year at General Assembly, UUJEC promoted an Action of Immediate Witness (AIW) against Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but it never got out of the Commission on Social Witness. This year the leading US Presidential candidates are all opposed, so we think our AIW will get a better hearing, though Obama still wants to pass it in the lame duck session after the November election. So what has changed?

Both Bernie and Trump are challenging the corporate stranglehold on US politics. NAFTA and the WTO (think China) have devastated the US working class, even leaving a good part of the middle class struggling. And many others are incensed by the corporate attack on democracy and national sovereignty (regulations affecting health, environment, resources, labor, safety, finance, internet, etc.). Even economists are increasingly breaking rank to join the protest against so-called “free trade” which in practice has meant “the rich get richer” while leaving “the people” far behind.

By contrast the post WWII trade regime (GATT) deliberately gave countries a lot of leeway for “industrial policy” and other development strategies, yielding the most spectacular period of economic growth in world history – for first world and third world alike. For NAFTA and the TPP, a foreign corporation could sue the US government before a tribunal of corporate lawyers for loss of expected profits due to a new regulation or law to protect the environment, labor, health, etc.

This AIW calls out not just the unjust content of the TPP but also the lack of democratic process – the extreme secrecy, designed to exclude those who might object, and the “Fast Track” voting, which allows no amendments and little debate.

Thus “Stop the TPP” calls for a “NO” vote by Congress, to be followed by a fully democratic renegotiation process aimed at an agreement accepted as equitable by the major stakeholders. In fact, “trade and investment agreements” should only include provisions which have a super-majority consensus, like the 2/3 Senate vote required for a treaty. In practice this recognizes that lowering trade barriers results in “winners”, who would then be obligated to compensate the “losers”.

Compensation of the “losers” could take the form of taxes to support government programs, such as temporary direct assistance and education and training for better jobs. Also we need regulations that encourage companies to move people to good, new jobs in the US rather than outsourcing. Check out public citizen’s excellent work on the TPP: www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=1328   

[Dick Burkhart, UUJEC Co-Chair]


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