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Op-ed: A corporate coup against American interests
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

By Jonathan M. Ruga

and Rocky Anderson

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement being negotiated in secret among 12 nations, including the United States. The Obama administration, with the support of many members of both parties, claims the TPP will permit U.S. companies to compete more effectively in the global marketplace by lowering trade barriers. The reality, though, is far different.

Only about a third of the agreement addresses typical trade matters. The rest is a secretive ploy to further empower multinational corporations to the detriment of the health, safety and quality of life of millions of men, women and children in the United States and other participating nations.

Among the most egregious problems of the TPP are: (1) the forfeiture of U.S. sovereignty; (2) the secretive negotiating process; (3) provisions that will lead to untold suffering and devastation; and (4) the dangerous "fast track" approval process.

In our constitutional republic, the people are to be the source of governmental power. Our democracy depends on a government that is "of the people, by the people, and for the people." The TPP repudiates all of that, providing that its terms — even as to matters vital to the health, safety and welfare of the people — will be the last word, regardless of what our elected representatives, and even our courts, decide. The TPP, with its own supreme tribunal, will be the ultimate arbiter, the public interest, including civil and human rights, be damned.

The U.S. has been negotiating the TPP for four years, yet the public and the media have been left in the dark (except for the recent Wikileaks disclosure of the TPP chapter on intellectual property). Although the public and even most members of Congress have been denied access to the TPP, approximately 600 "cleared advisers" — mostly representatives of multinational corporations (including Walmart, Chevron, Haliburton and Monsanto) — have access to the TPP and are providing self-serving input.

Approval of the TPP will be the culmination of the democracy-destroying oligarchic trend toward a government bought and paid for by behemoth companies in the banking, defense, fossil fuel, health insurance and pharmaceutical industries — and by the Walmarts of the world that care little about decent wages, working conditions or the availability of U.S. jobs.

The TPP prohibits U.S. laws that impose regulatory constraints on Wall Street's activities, setting the scene for another major economic disaster — one that will once again enrich the too-big-to-fail banks and their executives at the expense of ordinary Americans.

The TPP makes it easier for multinationals (like Walmart) to shift jobs to countries with the lowest wages and fewest worker protections. Consequently, as with NAFTA, millions of U.S. jobs will be lost. The TPP will dangerously affect our food supply by imposing restrictions on a country's ability to limit pesticides, preservatives and genetically-modified organisms, and will extend drug patents, denying affordable life-saving drugs for millions of people.

Making all of this even worse is the Obama administration's demand to utilize a "fast track" approval process, which would eliminate the ability of Congress to make any amendments to the agreement. To ramrod the TPP through Congress without any opportunity by the public, public-interest organizations or true public servants in Congress to analyze and expose the many provisions inimical to the public interest would be the opposite of the president's promise of transparency in government.

If we the people are to be truly sovereign, we must act like it. Citizen awareness and engagement are at the core of our democracy. We must all take a stand for our democracy — and against corporate control of our health, safety, and welfare — by letting our senators and Congress members know they will pay a heavy political price if they betray our interests by selling out to the multinational corporations behind the unprecedented power-grab of the TPP.

Jonathan M. Ruga is a local businessman, lawyer and community activist. Rocky Anderson is a former mayor of Salt Lake City, a civil rights lawyer and community activist.

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