A Fair Deal or No Deal

Here at Mata we are firm believers in fair trade and advocates of human rights, which is why we wanted to spend a little time talking about one of the most important issues of 2014, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is an international trade agreement in negotiations between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. It is known as “NAFTA on steroids,” and if it passes the TPP will be the biggest trade agreement ever.

Negotiations by the countries’ trade officials have been going on behind closed doors since 2008. The details of the TPP are not openly shared with the public or even members of Congress, although apparently some 600 corporate advisors have been given access. The actual text will not be released until a deal has been reached.

Wikileaks has managed to publish some of the agreement, and the leaked chapters have unions, environmental organizations, and workers’ rights groups concerned. They revealed that corporations would be allowed to boost their profits by reducing overseas labor costs and undermining workers’ rights. Some analysis even shows that rather than helping the American economy, most Americans would see their incomes decrease due to the new agreement. The TPP has the potential to affect just about every aspect of our lives, including food, the environment, workplaces, the Internet, banking and finance, job availability, health care, energy, and many more. For example, the TPP would outlaw preferential buying clauses, meaning local governments or schools would be restricted from adopting “buy local” or “buy American” policies that give preference in buying to local farmers and producers.

Activists aboard the Fast Track Express on the streets of Washington, D.C.

The most pressing issue at the moment is that lawmakers recently proposed a bill to Fast Track trade agreements. If the bill passes, it would give the administration the power to put trade deals before Congress with limited debate and no amendments. Essentially, the TPP could be whisked into law and Congress will have very little power to stop it!

Farmers from across Japan raise their fists in protest against the TPP during a rally in Tokyo.

The potential impact of the TPP is enormous, and there’s a lot to wrap your head around. Sometimes the best way to get a message across is through some good, old-fashioned gifs.

In all seriousness, though, each of us has the ability to make a difference on this issue. Call and/or write your representatives to voice your opposition to the Fast Track bill and to the TPP. Participate in rallies and other events on January 31st, or take action in other ways. If you are part of an organization, you can add your group’s name to this petition. For those of you in the Chicago area, please join the Rally and March against the TPP on Saturday, February 1 as we march from Jonquil Park to Representative Mike Quigley’s office.