Columns / Discourse / February 26, 2014

Considering the Trans-Pacific Partnership: A corporate decision

This past week, President Obama traveled to Mexico to talk with North American leaders about the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. This ambitious agreement would align many Pacific Rim nations, adding up to nearly 40 percent of the world’s GDP.

While there are obvious national incentives to form international partnerships similar to the TPP (especially when considering that China was left out of the TPP), the entire process should raise some serious warning signs.


To start with, the negotiations are taking place secretly, with only partial leaks of this potentially massive agreement surfacing. Those in favor of the agreement will point to the necessity of secrecy given that many items of the TPP are still on the negotiation table. However, when noted that the TPP comes with an attempt to push the deal through Congress without allowing the institution to suggest changes, it is clear that there is something sinister at play. Though they are a part of the president’s party, both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi oppose fast track approval for the TPP.

Another red flag comes up when examining the composition of negotiators employed by Obama. At least two members on the White House panel were formally at Bank of America and CitiGroup before receiving large bonuses just in time for their new jobs. This places an obvious bias for negotiation in the hands of big banking and corporations. Leaked chapters from the proposed agreement show that intellectual property law is a large subject of interest, with environmental policy proving to be static and incredibly watered down. In other words, everything from generic drugs to internet publication could be restricted under this agreement, while simultaneously giving companies a low set of regulations regarding environmental friendliness. It doesn’t take a critic to see that the TPP is corporate America’s dream come true.

Thus, we are left wondering why President Obama is traveling to Mexico in an active attempt to speed this agreement along. As much as I would like to believe that he is acting with America’s best interest in mind, these steps seem awfully radical when considering that the TPP’s main function is simply  to get a leg up on China economically. The cynic in me believes that Obama is stuck “paying the piper” for all his campaign contributions. Politics has come to the point where both sides have a large portion of campaign funds, which come from the very corporations these politicians are tasked with regulating upon taking office. When those same corporations then get a seat at the negotiation table sans congressional oversight, it becomes quite clear that something is wrong with the system.

Critics have predicted all sorts of things from a loss in the power of labor unions to HIPA and SOPA-esque results on the freedom of the internet if the TPP is passed. Given the secrecy of most of the partnership, even post-leaks, these critics are left assuming quite a lot. However, with the lack of transparency and attempted fast-tracking of the agreement, it is clear that things are not on the up and up. Negotiations that have the potential to affect civil liberties in the way the TPP is set to should not be taking place behind closed doors with only corporate interests represented. I encourage everyone to write their senator and let them know that the American people will not stand for TPP, even if their president does.

Payton Rose
Senior Payton Rose is a political science major with minors in creative writing and Spanish. This is his first year working for The Knox Student as discourse editor. He has written a political column for TKS for two years.

Tags:  Asian-North American trade Bank of America canada China CitiGroup Harry Reid HIPA labor unions Nancy Pelosi obama SOPA TPP Trans-Pacific Partnership

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