Thursday, April 23, 2015

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Robert Reich says "No to the TPP"

Southern Mexican poverty.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal sounds like one big fat give-away to the largest corporations and banks, and a big fat loser for the American people.  I'm no expert, but I'm following Robert Reich, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and other critics who are trying to raise awareness about the issue.  They advise "No fast track" to the deal in Congress and "No to the TPP."

Reich argues that this is another boondoggle, developed in secret for the 1% worldwide.  If it is "NAFTA on steroids," as Reich puts it, then it will have tremendous adverse consequences for American workers and consumers, and also for the environment.

What confuses me is that President Obama supports the deal, with the help of Republicans in Congress. It's the same with the new US-EU trade agreement now under consideration in the Senate and making some headlines.  Sen. Sanders is holding his finger in the dyke.

Why is our president pushing these deals? He believes the free trade agreements will open markets for US exports. But there are other aspects to these agreements, as Reich, Sanders and others point out, that are more troubling, even disturbing.  Surely the President knows this.

I remember having the same qualms about NAFTA when Bill Clinton pushed through its approval.  That's why I took the opportunity to experience the consequences first-hand.  I joined a Witness for Peace group, organized by an interfaith organization, that went to southern Mexico, Oaxaca and south, to see how NAFTA was working.

yahoo map.
It was a horrendous experience. Monsanto and other huge agribusinesses were destroying the agricultural economy of small farmers, taking over the land, using fertilizers that increased pollution, and planting GMO corn. We walked through a field of this corn: huge stalks, sprouting lots of huge bright yellow kernels.

But it wasn't real corn, the corn that's sacred to the indigenous peoples of southern Mexico, who lamented that "the purity of the corn" was now threatened. Cultural traditions were being destroyed.

Monsanto is killing the corn and
 more in southern Mexico
The multinational companies were blatantly exploiting Mexican farm workers. Some even imported the poorest of the poor from nearby Guatemala in order to pay lower wages than they were paying Mexican workers. Imagine! How low can you go?

We talked with NGO leaders, indigenous cultural leaders, and factory workers, including those at a PUMA plant in Puebla who were being paid a few cents a day and threatened with the loss of their jobs and worse.  The company, facing rising discontent, said it would move to China rather than respond to their employees, who worked tirelessly but could barely keep body and soul together. We had lunch with some of these brave workers, mostly women with young children, who shared their grievances and their stories. They moved me to tears. We knew that they would soon be unemployed.  Deliberately screwed.

We stayed with families who slept on blankets on hard dirt floors and survived on rice and beans and home-made tortilla.  No plumbing. No electricity. No furniture but the basics. Hardly any food but what could be grown in the hard soil (water was scarce) surrounding poorly constructed shacks.

I bought a coke for a young boy when we passed a tiny corner store (tienda) on our walk along a dusty dirt road. You would have thought I had given him the moon. For all I know he might still be nursing that coke. We weren't supposed to give gifts or money, but I wanted to give away all I had. We witnessed so much kindness and strength in the midst of such poverty and struggle. But sadness prevailed, a stoicism, a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness.

Will the Trans-Pacific Agreement, and also the new US-EU trade agreement, be worse than this? According to Reich, Sanders, and others following these issues, the answer is "yes."

"The basic premise behind....these negotiations is the same. It’s about                 prioritizing the needs of capital over the needs of society, working people and the environment....I think it’s also worth saying both of these agreements will lead to significant increases in greenhouse gas emissions and in climate change." (

For information about NAFTA::

For some information about recent trade agreements:   This trade agreement between EU and USA sounds really bad, too, including giving corporations "nation-state" status to sue governments, deregulation of giant corporations, such as those that produce and market GMOs, loss of over a million jobs.  Moyer's interview is excellent and thought provoking.

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