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Edward Kaler: More needs to be known about Trans-Pacific Partnership

To the editor:

This month, U.S. negotiators have worked behind closed doors in Singapore on a massive agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It’s being sold as a “free trade” agreement, but actually TPP would provide new rights to corporations which incentivize off-shoring of jobs, require us to import food that does not meet U.S. safety standards and would even ban “Buy American” procurement policies that reinvest our tax dollars locally to create jobs here.

This is the biggest international economic pact in decades. Eleven countries are involved in the secret talks, and it’s open for more to join — even China. It would expose the U.S. to corporate attacks before foreign tribunals demanding compensation in our tax dollars, simply because foreign firms don’t like our laws.

President Obama has called for completion of the TPP by October, yet after three years of negotiations, the public and Congress know little about what U.S. negotiators are proposing in our names.

Edward Kaler

Easthampton

Mr. Kaler is spot-on about this deeply flawed "free" trade deal. Consider the food and drug provisions in TPP: • In November 2011, the U.S. launched negotiations on the creation of the TPP with Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Subsequently, Canada, Japan and Mexico have requested to join the TPP talks. • The U.S., the world’s largest producer and exporter of genetically modified (GM) crops, is pressuring countries in the TPP agreement to abolish the labeling of GM foods, which it regards as a “trade barrier.” Australia, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand and Peru already require the labeling of GM products in some form or another. Japan also has GM labeling provisions in place. • Islam A. Siddiqui, the chief agriculture negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), was previously a lobbyist for the Brussels-based GM industry association, CropLife International, where he handled regulatory and international trade issues. • In May 2011, Sharon Bomer Lauritsen was appointed to USTR as assistant U.S. trade representative for agricultural affairs and commodity policy. For the five years prior to her appointment she was executive vice president of the Food and Agriculture Section at the U.S. industry’s principal lobby arm, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). In that job, Bomer Lauritsen lobbied USTR in November 2010 to place GMOs as a ‘top priority” for American negotiators of the TPP. • Labeling GM foods underpins consumers’ right to know the content of their food and is also an important traceability tool in the event that product recalls are required. • U.S. beef imports from Mexico have at least doubled in each of the last two years, continuing an upward trend that began in 2003. Mexican beef in 2010 totaled 107 million pounds, making Mexico the fifth largest exporter of beef to the U.S. according to USDA’s Economic Research Service. • Mexico has been accused of using banned hormones in their beef that is exported to the U.S. In 2011, clenbuterol, an anabolic agent used to bulk up livestock, was found at a slaughterhouse in Cuernavaca. • Giant multinational agribusiness firms such as ADM, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever are supporting TPP to enhance their already strong control over our food supply. Cargill sees FTAs such as TPP as a way of increasing what they call “regulatory harmonization” on regulatory standards, including food safety and genetic engineering. This is a race to the bottom, with as little regulation as possible. Under TPP, a very few transnational corporations will control the global food system from the seeds a farmer plants to the food served in school cafeterias. Local agriculture will be pushed to the margins under TPP. • TPP will jack up prices for medicines. U.S. negotiators are pushing extreme new privileges on behalf of Big PhRMA that promote brand name pharmaceuticals and would cut consumers’ access to life saving drugs. The drug makers would have seven more years of monopoly patent rights to charge any price for their products and would get new rights for their firms to attack “drug formularies,” the cost-saving programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and the Veterans Administration in the U.S. and similar initiatives in other nations. If the U.S. drug provisions of TPP are adopted, state governments across America would have to pay for expensive new drugs that Big PhRMA develops even if they don’t provide new benefits to patients. • All of the negotiations on TPP have been cloaked in secrecy as the talks have been held behind closed doors.

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