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Trans-Pacific Partnership Countries with US Total Trade 2013Map of Trans-Pacific Partnership Countries
Showing Total US Trade in Goods for each Country, 2013
Source: Federation of American Scientists

Trans-Pacific Trade Talks End Without Deal, article by Jim Randle, Voice of America, August 1, 2015.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed multilateral free trade agreement between the United States and eleven other countries in Asia and the Pacific, is currently nearing the final rounds of negotiation. Some members, like Canada and Japan, still have unresolved issues. Accounting for around forty percent of global GDP, the TPP is a Big Deal. Given the lack of exposure in the national media, American businesses and the general population don’t appear to be concerned about what could become the largest regional trade block on the planet.

During his recent testimony before the House and Senate committees, US Trade Representative Michael Froman reported that the TPP is nearing the finish line. “We are not done yet but I feel confident that we are making good progress and we can close out a positive package soon,” he told Senate Finance lawmakers. He urged them to push for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as fast-track.

Armed with fast-track power, the administration can negotiate trade and other policies tied to the agreement. Once done, Congress can approve or reject the terms of the agreement but cannot make a single amendment.

Last Thursday, in a speech to the Washington International Trade Association, Representative Paul Ryan, now chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee which oversees trade issues, defended the urgency for Congress to pass fast-track authority.

“Here’s the issue: When the U.S. sits down at the negotiating table, every country at that table has to be able to trust us,” he said. “They have to know that the deal the administration wants is the deal Congress wants—because if our trading partners don’t trust the administration—if they think it will make commitments that Congress will undo later—they won’t make concessions. Why run the risk for no reason?”

Most Republicans are in favor of signing the TPP and granting fast-track authority. Senator Elizabeth Warren and many other Democrats oppose the deal. In a letter dated December 17, 2014, to Ambassador Froman, Senators Warren, Tammy Baldwin, and Edward Markey expressed concern that the TPP “could make it harder for Congress and regulatory agencies to prevent future financial crises. With millions of families still struggling to recover from the last financial crisis and the Great Recession that followed, we cannot afford a trade deal that undermines the government’s ability to protect the American economy.”

As a former international trade professional, I support and continue to promote the movement of goods across borders. But, like NAFTA and other modern-day international trade agreements, the multilateral TPP agreement goes far beyond eliminating tariffs and other trade barriers, and setting quotas. The TPP will affect everything in our day to day lives: banking regulations, food safety standards, energy policies, medicine patents, environmental protections, government procurement, and much more.

Passing Trade Promotion Authority will mean fast-track for greater global dominance by transnational corporations and greater inequality for the rest of us. What’s more, it will mean fast-track to climate disruption and ecosystem collapse.