The Obama administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is an “assault,” on working people intended to further corporate “domination,” according to author and activist Noam Chomsky.
“It’s designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity,” Chomsky said during an interview with HuffPost Live.
The Obama administration has been negotiating the TPP pact with 11 other Pacific nations for years. While the deal has not been finalized and much of it has been classified, American corporate interest groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have already voiced strong support for the TPP, describing it as a free trade deal. But labor unions and a host of traditionally liberal interest groups, including environmentalists and public health advocates, have criticized the deal.
Chomsky argues that much of the negotiations concern issues outside of what many consider trade, and are focused instead on limiting the activities governments can regulate, imposing new intellectual property standards abroad and boosting corporate political power.
“It’s called free trade, but that’s just a joke,” Chomsky said. “These are extreme, highly protectionist measures designed to undermine freedom of trade. In fact, much of what’s leaked about the TPP indicates that it’s not about trade at all, it’s about investor rights.”
The Obama administration is treating the precise terms of the deal as classified information, blocking many Congressional staffers from viewing the negotiation texts and limiting the information available to members of Congress themselves. The deal’s only publicly available negotiation documents have come to light through document leaks. Recent documents have been published by WikiLeaks and HuffPost.
According to these leaked documents, the TPP would empower corporations to directly challenge laws and regulations set by foreign nations before an international tribunal. The tribunal would be given the authority to not only overrule that nation’s legal standards but also impose economic penalties on it. Under World Trade Organization treaties, corporations must convince a sovereign nation to bring trade cases before an international court. Chomsky said the deal is an escalation of neoliberal political goals previously advanced by the WTO and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“It’s very hard to make anything of the TPP because it’s been kept very secret,” Chomsky told HuffPost Live. “A half-secret, I should say. It’s not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing the legislation. To them, it’s perfectly public. They’re, in fact, writing it. It’s being kept secret from the population. Which of course raises obvious questions.”
Several members of Congress, including Obama’s fellow Democrats, have attacked the intense secrecy surrounding the talks. But others want to give the TPP the “fast track” to passage; Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced legislation on Thursday that would prevent members of Congress from offering legislative amendments to whatever final trade deal Obama reaches.
But the move to fast track the TPP hit headwinds in the House, where no Democrat has agreed to co-sponsor the legislation. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the fast track bill cannot pass without Democratic support.
Chomsky quipped that of course the administration and lawmakers would want to speed up a sweeping trade deal that may be more in the interest of corporations than the public.
“It’s very understandable that it should be kept secret from the public,” Chomsky said, “why should people know what’s happening to them?”