What is PSR doing, taking a stand on a trade bill?
May 11, 2015
Look again: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is much more than a trade bill. (In fact, of its 29 draft chapters, only five deal with tariffs and other traditional trade issues.)
Rather, the TPP would rewrite the rules for corporations' interactions with national governments. Among other things, it would allow them to sue national governments for passing laws that interfere with the expected future profits of corporate investors.
Yes, you read that right: "expected future profits."
This provision can severely impact a country's ability to pass health-protective laws and policies. That's clear from some of the lawsuits that have already been filed under existing free trade agreements:
- Philip Morris is challenging anti-smoking laws in Australia and Uruguay.
- Lone Pine Corporation is demanding compensation from the Canadian government for establishing a fracking moratorium in Quebec.
- Vattenfall, a Swedish corporation that is one of Germany's biggest electricity producers, sued for $6 billion compensation when Germany decided to phase out nuclear power.
Under the TPP, we could face similar challenges to our own laws.
The legal challenge is just the beginning of a bad situation. Cases under these free trade agreements are not heard in U.S. courts; they are heard by special tribunals under a closed process. Only corporations can initiate challenges, and only they and the defending government can be part of the proceedings. People whose health is affected, consumers, and health voices like PSR – all are excluded.
And then, if a government loses the case, its taxpayers shoulder the cost of reimbursing the corporation for its loss of future profits. Not only that: the country is expected to rewrite or repeal the offending law. This would mean that corporate profits could be the basis for overturning our best health and environmental laws – even if they serve the public interest, even if they are established under the rule of law.
These powers threaten to severely undermine the democratic process in the United States. Maybe that's why the TPP is being negotiated under wraps – and why the Obama Administration is pushing for "fast track," which would require the U.S. Senate to approve the treaty on an up-or-down vote, without the opportunity to introduce amendments.
That shouldn't be allowed. Under Article II, section II of the Constitution, the Senate must advice and consent to ratification of treaties that have been negotiated and agreed to by the president. We strongly need them to do that now.
The Senate will vote on whether or not to authorize fast track, probably on Tuesday, May 12. Call your U.S. Senator today (202-224-3121) and tell them: In the interests of health and democracy, say "no" to fast track.