Beyond the high degree of general skepticism warranted by such secrecy, there are very troubling specifics that can be gleaned from passages that have been leaked.
Among them, the Sierra Club identifies this one:
The investment chapter of the TPP—one of three leaked TPP chapters—would give corporations expansive new rights, including the right to sue governments in non-transparent trade tribunals over public interest regulations that corporations allege would reduce their expected profits.In other words, measures that would force certain amounts of fossil fuels to be kept in the ground and not burned, might be overturned as an illegitimate diminution of a corporation's profits. Of course, they might not be overturned. But the thing is, we're not allowed to see the text, so it's hard to even lay eyes on it.
Using rules similar to those that included in the TPP, corporations such as ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical, Chevron, and Occidental Oil, have launched more than 500 cases against 95 governments. Approximately 60 percent of the time, the corporation wins or the case settles, often with a concession to the corporation. [p. 1]
Today I got an email from Organizing for America (OFA), the outfit that had been Obama for America until he won the presidency. The email was telling me what a great thing the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Actually, it was talking about trade-promotion authority, better known as "fast-track," which means that when the president submits a trade agreement to Congress, they can only vote yes or no, they can't insist on changes.
But in essence, OFA is pushing the TPP. Their argument is:
It's pretty important for working families and for the economy that we get this right. U.S. exports—supported by expanding trade—have contributed nearly a third of our economic growth in the recovery, supporting more than 11.7 million jobs according to the International Trade Administration, and almost 300,000 small and medium-sized businesses in every state according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.But it doesn't follow that this trade deal is a good one. But wait, there's more:
The good news is that this bill [i.e., fast-track] ensures progressive values, like enforceable labor and environment standards, will be part of the agreement—and that the entire process is transparent.Hmm, "transparent" as in, "No, you can't see the text we're negotiating"?
And sure, it's nice that the bill ensures that things called enforceable labor and environment standards will be part of the agreement. But what about the investment chapter? Will it or won't it allow corporations to sue governments if governments set rules on how much fossil fuel has to stay in the ground?
If it will allow such actions, it's hard to see what other virtues could possibly justify the agreement.
Shortly after the pitch from OFA, I wrote back:
I was just contacted by OFA about fast-track for the TPP.I think I know the answer to that last question.
There's an argument that TPP would allow fossil-fuel companies to sue if future climate regulations force them to leave carbon in the ground.
Given that the TPP text is secret, what can you do to convince people that this argument isn't true?
And if the argument IS true, how can people take Obama seriously on climate if he's supporting TPP?
What is your agenda, anyway?
It felt very much like pissing in the wind, but at least now the bile is all over me rather than bottled up on the inside.