We’ve noticed that some people’s eyes glaze over when we start talking about free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), also called the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
We’ve compiled this list to clarify who will be impacted. If none of the below apply to you, feel free to ignore these so-called free trade agreements.
You do not need to worry about how free trade agreements will affect you unless:
- You have a job. (A recent study showed the TPP would mean a pay cut for 90% of US workers.)
- You or a loved one takes generic prescription medication as a less expensive alternative to patented brand name drugs. (TPP will threaten the availability of less expensive, generic medications and give drug companies holding patents more rights. This could affect anyone who takes prescription medications, but is especially harmful to impoverished communities in the Global South who already struggle for access to medication, a fact that has led Doctors Without Borders to oppose the TPP.)
- You prefer to eat food that you know is safe and free of chemical residues. (TPP would require countries to accept food that meets only the lowest safety standards of the collective participants.)
- You drink water and don’t want it contaminated through increased fracking. (TPP would limit the authority of local governments to restrict permits to extraction and export of liquid nature gas to partner countries, which could lead to an increase in the practice of fracking.)
- You could benefit from a medical test or surgical procedure. (TPP would require the patenting of medical procedures, making many of them too costly to be widely available.)
- You buy products labeled fair trade, animal-friendly, or GMO-free. (Labels such as these may be challenged as trade barriers under TPP.)
- You have a job in the manufacturing sector. (A 2011 report estimated a net loss of nearly 700,000 jobs, more than half in the manufacturing sector, due to NAFTA; TPP is expected to create a loss of a million jobs as companies shift work to low wage countries. This means not only a loss of decent jobs in the US, but the creation of more undesirable jobs in countries where not only are wages low but workers rights are not protected.)
- You are a family-scale farmer (or prefer to buy food from family-scale farmers). (After the passage of NAFTA, more than 2 million corn farmers in Mexico were forced off their land, imports of fruits and vegetables to the US increased making it more difficult for US farmers to compete in markets, and reports showed that incomes dropped for farmers in most commodities in Canada, the US, and Mexico. TPP is likely to have similar affects and family-scale farmers may lose income or their farms.)
- You would like your local government or school to adopt a “buy local” policy to give preference in buying to local farmers and producers. (TPP would outlaw preferential buying clauses.)
- You are a government official attempting to pass a domestic health, environmental, or economic policy to benefit citizens in your country and your country is sued by a foreign corporation to recoup loss of expected profits. (Minnesota-based Cargill sued the Mexican government under a provision of NAFTA—the North America Free Trade Agreement when Mexico tried to institute policies to restrict imports of corn syrup in order to support its own sugar farmers.)
If after reading this, you do think you might be affected by free trade agreements like TPP and TAFTA, please take action now. Let your Representative and Senators know that you are concerned. Because of the lack of transparency in this process, most have not even seen the text of the agreements. Yet they will likely be asked to Fast Track it, that is to vote for or against TPP and TAFTA without a proper discussion. Let them know you oppose Fast Track and want your interests considered in a public debate.