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The stakeholders that I met at the TPPA event seemed to be mostly composed of people hoping to express their concerns to sympathetic delegates. The really big players like Halliburton, Chevron, Philip Morris, and PhRMA weren’t anywhere to be seen. At least they definitely were not in the same room in which we were restricted. There were some union representatives though. I got to speak briefly with Michael Dolan, legal advisor for Teamsters Union. He stated, “We will support the TPPA if it contains a democracy clause; protects workers and their right to organize; protects the environment; does not grant greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. firms and allows Congress and state legislators to enact government procurement policies in the public interests.”
Virginia Cobb, Area Director of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, didn’t seem so ready to jump on board. She said that she has seen this before with NAFTA and its broken promises. She thinks this trade agreement with create even more job losses than NAFTA. Back then, the public was told there would be more jobs available because Mexico would buy products from the U.S. What really happened instead was that American corporations moved their plants to places that had lower wages and weaker environmental and labor standards. NAFTA gave corporations new investment rights and protections that allowed them to trample on any country that stood up to them.
Because the large corporations didn’t have to follow the U.S. environmental and health rules, now consumers over here don’t really know what is in their food. The produce being sold to U.S. markets are not inspected and held to the same safety standards as domestic producers. The Food and Drug Administration only inspects 1.7 percent of the food imports that it regulates. Why don’t they inspect more? Probably because we keep laying off those workers — so we can “balance our budget.” (Sarcasm intended).
So why do we keep entering into these trade agreements? It’s the same old promise of lower prices for consumers. Why do you think Wal-Mart is so popular? Customers actually believe they are getting cheaper prices. I wonder how many of them actually comparison shop. I have — and saving 20 cents here and there isn’t worth it to me for all the taxpayer support we give this company.
NAFTA increased imports from Canada and Mexico, all right, but the price of our food went up 54 percent. Don’t lower prices mean they are supposed to go down? I would think that since our prices went up the farmers in Mexico were getting more money — but the money they got for corn went down 50 percent. And to add insult to injury, the prices of tortillas went up 279 percent in the first ten years in Mexico!
NAFTA proponents also claimed that the standard of living would rise in Mexico, so immigration to the U.S would be greatly reduced. In reality, NAFTA removed Mexican tariffs but did not discipline U.S. subsidies. Cheap American food flooded Mexico’s markets — and U.S. agribusiness drove small farms out of business. Most of these farms had been in their family for centuries. Workers continue to cross the American border to find work to support their families. Who can really blame them? The real winners from the NAFTA agreement were big business.
Cobb said, “American workers once again get the shaft. Truckers still cannot enter Mexico to deliver products. They must drop off at the border and Mexican drivers take over, but Mexican drivers are allowed to cross into the U.S. to deliver their goods. How fair is that? I am against any agreement that short changes our workers at home.”
The three hour time limit that we had been given to mingle inside the room started to run out. I went downstairs and found a group concerned about the Tobacco Industry being part of TPPA holding a press conference. So I listened in.
Ellen Shaffer Director of the Center for Policy and Analysis on Trade and Health (CPATH) said “The World Trade Organization ruled that the U.S. cannot ban the sale of clove-flavored cigarettes to discourage children from smoking, because it was discriminating against Indonesia. They said there was no difference between a clove cigarette and a menthol one which is allowed for sale in U.S.”
This new international agreement could undo all American laws restricting smoking. Tobacco companies could sue cities that banned indoor smoking in public places. We could actually have the clock turned back where smoking will be allowed everywhere again and not be able to stop it because international law will supersede U.S. laws. The warning labels could be removed from cigarette packs.
Stanton Arnold Glantz, Ph.D. is Professor of Medicine (Cardiology), at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of the book “The Cigarette Papers.” Professor Glantz said, “My work has attracted considerable attention from the tobacco industry, which has sued the University of California (unsuccessfully) twice in an effort to stop me from doing research on the effects of second hand smoke.”
Timothy Mackey a PhD student at UC San Diego has been working with the Surf Riders Foundation studying the effects of cigarette butts on the environment, specifically the beaches. Mackey said the cigarette butt litter is a huge problem for California beaches. Big tobacco could interfere with cities and counties working to ban cigarettes from beaches leaving cleanup to taxpayers or worse yet, not being cleaned up at all.
So I have spoke with people who have real concerns with this new agreement. For my final report, I will tell you about a man who is excited to be part of the TPPA and that his industry is capable of feeding the world and raising everyone’s standard of living.
The Series: I Went to the Trans-Pacific Parnership Event and All I Got was this Lousy Pen!