You Down With TPP?

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The job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership could pass by year’s end—unless the public stands in its way.

Looking around, it seems like our country’s in pretty bad shape. We’re broke, the environment’s trashed, and wars drag on. It’s hard to believe that in another decade we might be looking back on 2013 like this:

You know, the good ol’ days before the Trans-Pacific Partnership—or TPP, as we’ll all be calling it in a few years. So far, the details of the proposed free-trade agreement have been shrouded in secrecy, but based on the little information that’s been leaked or offered, the TPP has a lot of people like this:

There are a few reasons to worry. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a huge free trade pact between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, would restructure our economy in dramatic and undemocratic ways. Everything from environmental regulations to net neutrality to food safety laws could come under threat if the TPP is signed. Oh, and it’ll make outsourcing your job much easier, which is why many people are calling it “NAFTA on steroids.”

NAFTA—a free trade agreement between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico—eliminated barriers like tariffs on trade and investment starting in 1994. It also expanded intellectual property rights to hold up across borders. Words like agreement and investment make it sound like these countries are doing this:

 But what NAFTA looks like on the ground is more like:

It’s been bad for everyday people on both sides of the border. Mexican farmers who can’t compete against cheap, subsidized corn imports from the U.S. go out of business. And working-class Americans lose manufacturing jobs with decent pay when the companies they work for shift production to Mexican maquiladoras, where wages are lower.

For Yes! Magazine, Natalie Pompilio writes that passage of the TPP could prompt the few major manufacturing companies still in the United States to move production overseas. And when all the people who used to make socks or sweaters lose their jobs:

Pompilio cites Michael Stumo, CEO of Coalition for a Prosperous America (a nonprofit advocacy group for working people) who says that of the people who lose their jobs, only about one-third will find a job of similar quality. The others? One-third will never work again, and the last third will find jobs like this:

“There will be much more poverty,” he says, “meaning your infrastructure suffers and the divorce rate goes up. This puts stress on kids and causes social problems.”

When most people hear this:

And that’s understandable. The thing is, trade officials are trying to get the TPP passed by the end of the year.

Job loss is not the only problem with the TPP. On Democracy Now, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Lori Wallach, said the TPP could limit the government’s ability to regulate food safety, finance, environmental standards, and policy surrounding energy and climate.

So pretty soon we all might look a little more like this:

Or this:

“It would be a big push for fracking,” says Wallach, “because it doesn’t allow us to have bans on liquid natural gas exports.”

As if that weren’t enough, the TPP is also bad news for the internet. The trade agreement would expand copyright law to severely restrict online sharing and remixing. It’s hard to know exactly how limiting the new rules would be because the public hasn’t been invited to the TPP negotiating table. But a chapter about intellectual property enforcement was leaked, and when advocates of internet freedom got their hands it:

In a video, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said:

While the public is shut out of the negotiating process, private corporate interests aren’t. In particular, big content industries are spending ginormous amounts of money lobbying to convince policymakers that more aggressive and draconian copyright laws will lead to more innovation, more creativity, and more jobs. But in reality that just isn’t the case.

Copyright encourages innovation to a point, but if licenses last too long or cover too much territory, copyright starts to stifle innovation—not to mention fun. When SpongeBob GIFs become a thing of the past:

That’s why Canada’s OpenMedia International is petitioning to end the secrecy surrounding the TPP and trying to crowdsource a set of fair copyright rules to offer as an alternative.

There’s not much time left, but groups like Expose the TPP and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are trying to raise awareness and stop passage of the agreement.

“There’s almost no part of your life or the things you care about that this agreement couldn’t undermine,” said Public Citizen’s Wallach. Sure that’s scary, until we remember that we have the power to stop it, and create the future that we want:

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