Jobs? The Romney Plan: NAFTA on Steroids

Governor Romney proposes a platform to create nearly 11 million jobs in four years, or at least that’s what he was saying as of September 6, 2011. [CSMonitor] Let’s take him at his word that he stands by what he said, whatever it was.

Trading It All Away

There are a couple of significant components in his “job creation” package.  The first we should look at very carefully is the promotion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. [Romney] If you like NAFTA you’ll love this one.

The TPP, set in motion during the Bush Administration in 2008 and continued in fits and starts during the Obama Administration, would create a trade framework including Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, and Japan. [Brookings]   Russia and China are also included. [HuffPo] The Obama Administration’s negotiating position begins with the provisions of the Korea FTA as the model.

However, thanks to intense corporate pressure the proposed TPP doesn’t stop there:

“Think of the TPP as a stealthy delivery mechanism for policies that could not survive public scrutiny. Indeed, only two of the twenty-six chapters of this corporate Trojan horse cover traditional trade matters. The rest embody the most florid dreams of the 1 percent—grandiose new rights and privileges for corporations and permanent constraints on government regulation. They include new investor safeguards to ease job offshoring and assert control over natural resources, and severely limit the regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare and more.”  [Wallach, CD] (emphasis added)

Why don’t we know more about this?  Because the negotiators agreed not to release any information about the talks until 4 years AFTER ratification.  [Wallach, CD] What’s the reason for all the secrecy? The proponents of the TPP say it is necessary because a leak brought down the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and therefore no public scrutiny should be allowed.  The USTR attempted to explain away the secrecy in classic agency-speak.  [USTR]   Maybe a little bit of light is in order?

US negotiators have proposed new rights for Big Pharma and pushed into the text aspects of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would limit Internet freedom, despite the derailing of SOPA in Congress earlier this year thanks to public activism. In June a text of the TPP investment chapter was leaked, revealing that US negotiators are even pushing to expand NAFTA’s notorious corporate tribunals, which have been used to attack domestic public interest laws. [Nation]

The Trans Pacific Partnership would certainly cut “red tape,” if by “red tape” you mean environmental protection laws, worker safety regulations, and consumer protection acts, enacted by national legislative bodies, and there’s more:

“Countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP’s rules—in effect, a corporate coup d’état. The proposed pact would limit even how governments can spend their tax dollars. Buy America and other Buy Local procurement preferences that invest in the US economy would be banned, and “sweat-free,” human rights or environmental conditions on government contracts could be challenged. If the TPP comes to fruition, its retrograde rules could be altered only if all countries agreed, regardless of domestic election outcomes or changes in public opinion. And unlike much domestic legislation, the TPP would have no expiration date.” [Nation] (emphasis added)

Little wonder Governor Romney, founder of Bain Capital, would like to put this agreement on the fast track!  Speaking of taking a knee before foreign laws — this agreement, as it stands, would have the U.S. genuflecting to the corporate TPP tribunals into time out of mind.  Australia and New Zealand have already announced they have no intention of submitting to a “parallel corporate court system.” Under the TPP proposals the “jurisdiction” issues are problematic:

In another concerning development, the “outline” indicates that the TPP is likely to include much of the same investment text as NAFTA—including the provisions that give foreign investors the extraordinary right to bypass U.S. courts and sue the U.S. government in an international arbitration panel if the investor feels it hasn’t been treated “fairly” or if a federal, state, or local law interferes with its expected profits. These same rules give U.S. firms an incentive to invest overseas (taking U.S. jobs with them), so they can bypass the judicial process in foreign countries and sue our trading partners (often developing countries) before international arbitration panels. We can’t let another trade agreement give U.S. companies more reasons to send jobs offshore! [AFL-CIO] (emphasis added)

In other words, if any corporation thought a local, state, or federal statute interfered with their profits, the TPP allows access to that parallel corporate court for a ‘decision.’

How easing job off-shoring is supposed to create “good well-paying American jobs” is something of a mystery.   Proponents argue the partnership will ease export facilities for small businesses.  Maybe, but the price tag is that major tobacco, pharmaceutical, food manufacturing, and international banking corporations will get free rein to ride rough shod over any national legislation they don’t like.

They don’t like labor protection laws.

“…with regard to labor rights, the “outline” reads “TPP countries are discussing elements for a labor chapter that include commitments on labor rights protection and mechanisms to ensure cooperation, coordination, and dialogue on labor issues of mutual concern,” but fails to mention ILO core labor standards or even whether the labor provisions will be enforceable.”  [AFL-CIO]

And, they don’t care for paying American level wages:

“According to the U.S. State Department, the per capita income in Vietnam was only $1,068 in 2010. This compares with a per capita income of $40,584 for the United States in the same year. This massive differential shows the skewed nature of the agreement. Of course companies are going to choose to manufacture items in a country where they can pay pennies on the dollar for labor. America as we know it would not exist if workers labored for those kind of wages, but if the TPP is passed companies will have a choice between hiring a worker in the United States, or hiring a much cheaper worker in Vietnam. America will lose this battle in all but the strangest of situations.”  [EIC]

Rather than actually promoting those well-paying American manufacturing jobs, the TPP offers corporations more incentives to off shore their production in the cheapest areas possible — hardly a recipe for encouraging the hiring of American workers.

The Trans Pacific Partnership is good for bankers, tobacco companies, Big Pharma, food manufacturers, and other multi-national corporations; whether it gets us any closer to better employment numbers is highly questionable.  Whether the TPP officially enters us into the lists for another Race to the Bottom really isn’t.

Comments Off on Jobs? The Romney Plan: NAFTA on Steroids

Filed under 2012 election, Bush Administration, Economy, labor, Romney

Comments are closed.