Free-Trade is a staple of American democracy. Free-trade and globalization has allowed America and countries around the globe to open up their markets by removing trade barriers such as tariffs; allowing goods and services from around the world to compete with domestic products and services. According to The House Small Business Committee, “International trade is a critical component for the long-term growth and viability of small businesses and the U.S. economy overall. In 2012, total U.S. exports reached $2.2 trillion, which is nearly 14 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Those exports helped support nearly 10 million jobs, including about 4 million small business jobs” (SmallBusiness.House.Gov). Ultimately, the exportation of goods and services provide small businesses with greater opportunities to reach new markets, increase revenue, and create jobs.
World Map of Every Country’s Highest-Valued Export. Image Source: Business Insider
Lately, in the world of free-trade policy, there has been an increase in news coverage of the United States as it enters the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Office of the United States Trade Representative officially defines the TPP as the author of the rules for global tradeâ€”rules that will help increase Made-in-America exports, grow the American economy, support well-paying American jobs, and strengthen the American middle class (www.ustr.gov/tpp/). In spite of such great expectations, many members of the general public are not exactly aware of this agreement or what it entails. So, what exactly is the TPP and what does it mean for everything?
According to the New York Times, the TPP is the largest regional trade accord in history, and if implemented, would set new terms for trade and business investment among 12 countries whose combined annual gross domestic product (GDP) of nearly $28 trillionÂ represents 40 percent of global GDP and one-third of world trade. The agreement has yet to be ratified by Pacific Rim Nation lawmakers in The United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Japanâ€”the parties included in the agreement. Michael Froman, the United States Trade Representative has stated that the trade would be worth $295 billion over the next ten years and will support job expansion, drive sustainable growth, foster inclusive development, and promote innovation across the Asia-Pacific region and benefit United States citizens.
However, critics of the trade agreement contend that the TPP is anything but free-trade, arguing instead that it is nothing but controlled trade that protects multinational corporations and corporate interests against economic regulationsâ€”regulations that are designed to protect the public interest. Opponents also criticize the deal based on issues that will imply consolidation of power, reduction of government transparency, lessening of environmental and health protection standards, pharmaceutical monopolies, manipulation of currency, offshoring of jobs, a reduction of internet privacy, decreases in food safety standards, and the undermining of local control.
In like manner, US Senator Bernie Sanders, a US Democratic presidential candidate, has said that “Wall Street and other big corporations have won a big victory to advance a disastrous trade deal” (www.bbc.com/news/business). The “win” to which Sanders refers is about the geopolitical maneuvering and further corporate domination over participating nations’ trade and investment affairs that opponents say the TPP will impose. For example, if the TPP is signed into law, large foreign corporate firms will be able to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment expectations in order to obtain taxpayer compensation for loss of said firmsÂ expected future profits (www.huffingtonpost.com).
In the event that the TPP is ratified by lawmakers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation states that the agreement would raise significant concerns about citizens’ freedom of expression, due process, innovation, the future of the internet’s global infrastructure, and the right of sovereign nations to develop policies and laws that best meet their domestic priorities. In essence, the TPP puts at risk some of the most fundamental rights that enable access to knowledge for the world’s population (www.eff.ord/issues/tpp).
Given these points, the overall lack of knowledge held by the general public about this trade agreement is the most dangerous aspect of the TPP’s potential implementation.