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Backdoor Talks on Trans-Pacific Trade Deal Aim to Globalize Corporatocracy

The White House is touting the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a "21st century" trade deal, but many activists see it as a regression into economic imperialism.

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According to Public Citizen’s analysis, working people might not only face the threat of job loss under TPP, but also the undermining of Medicare and Medicaid programs, new copyright restrictions that inhibit internet freedom, or attacks on the Buy American policy, which promotes the use of U.S. goods and services for government contracts.

As Josh Eidelson reported at Salon, union officials have criticized the lack of transparency in the negotiations and denounced the administration’s pandering to multinationals. But the secrecy surrounding the agreement poses a challenge for labor and community groups, which are isolated both from the trade talks and from the lawmakers expected to rubber stamp it.

When investors are able to invoke their “rights” against national governments, the effects may manifest in unexpected aspects of our lives. Huffington Post reports that the pretext of destroying trade barriers has been used to attack U.S. measures like “dolphin-safe tuna labelling and anti-teen smoking efforts.”

In one CAFTA investor-state dispute case, documented by Public Citizen, the Wisconsin-based mining firm Commerce Group Corporation waged a legal challenge against El Salvador after losing environmental permits due to a failed audit, “claiming expropriation and denial of fair and equitable treatment.”

Neoliberal ideology has redefined “fair and equitable treatment” as deference to corporate sanctity. As the talks speed ahead, the public may not even become aware of the Trans Pacific Partnership until it begins to directly harm their livelihoods. Now the damage is already happening behind closed doors, as trade officials quietly change the locks on the institutions that are supposed to serve the public.


Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times. She is a regular contributor to the labor rights blog Working In These Times,, and Pacifica’s WBAI. Her work has also appeared in Alternet, Ms. Magazine, Newsday, and her old zine, cain. Follow her on Twitter at @meeshellchen or reach her at michellechen @

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