Is the TPP a people’s partnership? There is an assumption left over from the early days that trade is struck for people. When we were first enjoying bananas, coffee, and other non-local goods under trade deals, there were clear benefits of access and deliciousness. Now that barriers to goods are minimal across the globe, content has moved into the public Commons, or the stuff of everyday life in a community. However, the old assumptions remain a block to understanding the intimacy of content being traded away. Steve Shrybman, Canadian lawyer explains that trade “is the things that matter in everyday life: the food you eat, the work you do, the air and water quality in your community.” All of these appear true for the TPP.
Frequent concerns raised around the TPP are: rising drug costs for people, decreasing control over food networks for communities, and restriction to internet freedoms for all. CEOs of transnational corporations hosted in Pacific Rim and North American countries have advised on content. Citizen leaders and public concern groups have been excluded from the process.
Regular folks who follow trade agreements can become swiftly skeptical because the content has become the public’s assets but we are not allowed to see the details. Less consequential when one is deciding about goods to bring into a country, much more serious when deciding services, policy, and public spending. These markers of democracy are the sweet fruits born from suffrage. If we are losing the basic privileges of election because of trade’s legal system, the curiosity arises — what civic moment are we in?
It’s not just the lack of public consultation on content. Across the globe, citizens and some trade experts, are becoming disillusioned with the severity of how the rules are controlled. New trade from the TTP to the TTIP to CETA, includes a form of legal protection for corporations bar none to any other structure in the world – Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). ISDS is a binding protection service for corporations. It is how all other points in a pact are enforced. If a corporation feels that their profits are threatened by government initiatives, they can sue the country for recourse using specific trade rules. However, if a country feels unfairly treated by a corporation, there is no trade-legal recourse to restrain the corporation.
People with trade concerns are sometimes portrayed as extreme. Maybe the voices are simply responding to an urgent situation. There is nothing out of the ordinary about wanting communities at the table when drafting policy and creating norms for public spending and services. The blurring between trade and international laws is causing a global regression.
What is the deal with the everyday content of our lives being the subject of the TPP and other super-trade pacts?