Cherry-picking the TPPA

November 25, 2015

Cherry-picking the TPPA

by Tan Siok Choo

Dato Mustapha Mohamed

Malaysia is fortunate that TPPA negotiations were led by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad – one of a handful of ministers who are intellectually competent, diligent and who are intellectually competent, diligent and without a whisper of corruption.-Tan Siok Choo

CONCLUDED on October 6 this year, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) promises to usher in a new era of free trade among 12 countries that collectively contribute 40% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).

These countries include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

TPPA signatories have promised to cut or eliminate 18,000 tariffs on a vast number of goods and services. Tariffs ranging from 2% to 11% will be abolished for Malaysian made exports including wood products, palm oil, rubber, car spare parts as well as electrical and electronic goods.

Services covered include information and communication technology, retailing, entertainment, electronic payments systems and software.

Comprising 4,500 pages and 30 chapters while weighing a hefty 100 pounds, the TPPA offers thousands of issues for proponents and opponents to cherry pick.

Malaysia is fortunate that TPPA negotiations were led by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad – one of a handful of ministers who are intellectually competent, diligent and without a whisper of corruption.

Mustapa announced MPs will debate and vote on the TPPA at a special sitting of the Dewan Rakyat in January 2016.

Underscoring the remote possibility the TPPA will be rejected, the first reading of Budget 2016 last Monday received 128 votes in favour, 74 against and seven abstentions by PAS members of Parliament.

Two PAS MPs weren’t present in the Dewan Rakyat, three PAS MPs voted against Budget 2016 while suspended DAP MP Lim Kit Siang was unable to vote.

Could dislike for some TPPA clauses prompt BN MPs to risk giving the opposition a victory on this issue? This is unlikely. Mustapa succeeded in ensuring bumiputras, small and medium enterprises and those from Sabah and Sarawak will continue to be preferential suppliers for up to 40% of state-owned enterprises’ (SOE’s) annual purchases.

SOEs include Permodalan Nasional, Tabung Haji and MARA.Similarly, Petronas can continue to give priority to Malaysian enterprises to supply goods and services up to 70% of its annual budget for upstream businesses in the first year of the TPPA and scaled down progressively to 40% in the 6th year of the trade pact.

A major contentious issue in the TPPA is pharmaceuticals. Leading generic medicine manufacturer Mylan has warned it would be prohibited from doing business in TPPA member countries. By disallowing generic drugs, the TPPA could keep prices of drugs in this country higher for a longer period until patents expire.

Malaysian AIDS Council’s policy manager Fifa Rahman said a 12-week treatment for Hepatitis C using the generic version of Sofosbuvir costs RM750.06 to RM1,579.07 compared with an exorbitant RM357,000.


Writing in The Malaysian Insider, Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, and Adam Hersh, senior economist at the Roosevelt Institute, said economists at the UN Conference on Trade and Development have forecast joining TPPA would make Malaysia a net loser because its trade balance would fall by US$17 billion annually.

Sectors that would be hurt by the TPPA include iron and steel, aluminium, mineral fuels, plastics and rubber, Stiglitz and Hersh say.

Challenging the belief that intellectual property rights promote research, Stiglitz and Hersh noted after the US Supreme Court invalidated Myriad’s patent on the BRCA gene, a burst of innovation resulted in better tests at lower costs.

Another controversy is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system. Using arbitration to settle disputes rather than the courts, foreign investors will have new rights to sue governments for instituting regulations that diminish investors’ profits.

Instead of forcing manufacturers of harmful products like asbestos to shut down and compensate their victims, the ISDS could hit taxpayers twice – paying for the illnesses caused and compensating manufacturers for their lost profits, Stiglitz and Hersh argue.

Although tariffs will be abolished for Malaysia’s major exports like electrical and electronic products, will Malaysians be the biggest beneficiaries in a sector dominated by US and Japanese multinationals?

For products like palm oil, the campaign alleging plantation companies destroy the habitat of orang utans is a bigger barrier than high tariffs.

Hopes the TPPA will reduce corruption could be stymied by Malaysia’s high threshold exempting construction companies from competitive bidding for five years for contracts valued under 63 million Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) or RM374 million. After 21 years, the threshold will decline to a still hefty SDR14 million (RM80 million).

Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen noted other TPPA countries accepted a much lower threshold of 5 million SDRs (RM30 million); only Vietnam’s threshold of SDR 65.2 million (RM387 million) is higher than Malaysia’s.

In summary, TPPA’s benefits must be spelt out in greater detail and more convincingly.

Opinions expressed in this article are the personal views of the writer and should not be attributed to any organisation she is connected with. She can be contacted at

Japan and China step up rivalry over ASEAN infrastructure contracts

November 24, 2015

Japan and China step rivalry over ASEAN infrastructure contracts

by Ben Bland in Kuala Lumpur 11/23/2015

ASEAN's Time

China and Japan are stepping up their battle for strategic infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia amid rising economic competition and tensions over maritime disputes.

At an annual summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Kuala Lumpur this weekend, China pledged to add another $10bn to its growing pool of infrastructure lending in Southeast Asia, while Japan vowed to halve the time it takes to approve infrastructure loans and take on more financial risk.

China recently beat Japan to win a $5bn high-speed rail project in Indonesia on the back of no-strings financing that did not require the Indonesian government to act as guarantor.

China and Japan are going head to head to secure other high-speed rail projects, including one linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, as well as bidding against each other for ports, power stations and other infrastructure deals across this fast-growing region.

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister, said in a speech that Japan’s official development assistance must keep pace with the speed of change in Asia.

Xi and Abe with Jokowi

“We will drastically reduce the time needed for going through the procedures for ODA loans by as much as one and a half years compared with the current system,” he said, promising a significant reduction from the current average processing time of three years. We will also revise the current practice of requiring without exception recipient governments’ payment guarantees.”

A senior Japanese diplomat said that Tokyo had to become more “expeditious” in executing infrastructure projects in Asia, rather than simply highlighting that it has a better record than China in terms of quality, safety and social and environmental protection.

Beijing also pledged to accelerate and deepen its economic co-operation in Southeast Asia with Premier Li Keqiang promising $10bn of new loans for infrastructure as well as an increase in grants to the region’s less developed nations.

Sale of 1MDB Power Assets to China

China rescues Najib Razak from 1MDB scandal

While China clashes at sea with Japan and some Southeast Asian nations including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, Beijing and its rivals are competing to build alternative spheres of economic influence.

Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan and the US were among 12 nations that recently signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact that excludes China and is designed to promote a rules-based trading and investment system in the region.

Beijing has backed a rival trade deal with Southeast Asia, called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership,  that has fewer requirements for economic liberalisation.  But hopes to conclude RCEP by the end of the year received a blow on Sunday when Malaysia, which is chairing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said that negotiations would not be concluded until next year because of the “challenges faced”.

Xi Jinping, China’s President, made an implicit criticism of the TPP on Wednesday when he warned at another regional forum in Manila that “with various new regional free trade frameworks cropping up, fragmentation is becoming a concern”. Despite Beijing’s concerns, since the TPP was agreed last month other Southeast Asian nations including Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand have said they are interested in joining.

“With the TPP now finally coming to fruition, it increasingly seems like it is the best game in town in terms of driving economic development,” said a minister from one of the Southeast Asian nations keen to sign up. “But given the state of our economy and the fact that the existing TPP participants must ratify the deal first, it will take several years before we can join.”

Barack Obama, US President, welcomed the new interest in the TPP from Southeast Asian nations, claiming that the pact would “write the rules for trade in the Asia Pacific for decades to come”, promoting the resolution of economic disputes through dialogue rather than “bullying or coercion”.

ASEAN Civil Society welcomes the Launch of ASEAN Community with reservations

November 23, 2015

ASEAN Civil Society welcomes the Launch of ASEAN Community with reservations

For the peoples of ASEAN, this long-awaited moment is met with some disappointment.While the documents signed are replete with language premised on a people-centred community that belongs to all, there remains serious scepticism on the part of civil society as to what the agreements reached and commitments made by ASEAN governments will actually mean for human rights, democracy, development and environment  for the ASEAN peoples.


The ASEAN Civil  Society congratulates the ASEAN leaders for the launching of the new ASEAN Community. This community, our community, is what we have been looking forward to for a long time.

The 27th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits 2015 has officially signed the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the establishment of the ASEAN Community and the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

Further, we have also witnessed the signing of the ASEAN Convention against Human Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Actip).

For the peoples of ASEAN, this long-awaited moment is met with some disappointment. While the documents signed are replete with language premised on a people-centred community that belongs to all, there remains serious scepticism on the part of civil society as to what the agreements reached and commitments made by ASEAN governments will actually mean for human rights, democracy, development and environment for the ASEAN peoples.

Asean Economic Community 2016

In his opening address on November 21, 2015, Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, as 2015 chair of ASEAN, declared that Asean had stressed “community and consensus building, over the excesses of individualism and the seeking of selfish objectives”.

He added in his statement that the adoption of the ASEAN Community marked the culmination of decades of effort to integrate, cohere and to forge ahead together.

However, a dichotomy exists between the integration touted by ASEAN officials and the socially minded integration sought by civil society.

“What does this really mean for the peoples of ASEAN?” asked Jerald Joseph of Pusat Komas, chair of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF) 2015.

“Regional integration might be the goal but could it be instead selective integration, which has the potential of widening the development gaps? We recognise that this region has huge disparities in political, economic and social development and bargaining powers in the region.”

“Thus ensuring measures are in place to ensure fair representation of diverse interests of the peoples in ASEAN rather than certain dominant nations and interests of certain groups, especially the businesses and the multi-national corporations must be made a priority,” he said.

The ASEAN Community 2015 cannot focus only on integration policies which clearly provide economic and development gains without also removing its reluctance to commit to addressing issues which are deemed to infringe on national sovereignty such as internal conflict, territorial disputes, environmental degradation, treatment of minorities and human rights violations which have negative trans-boundary impacts and consequences.

Today we also witnessed the signing of the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025, Forging Ahead Together, which incorporates the ASEAN Community Vision. The rhetoric around the vision claims that it will be a “bold, visionary, progressive and forward-looking document to reflect the aspirations of the next generation of ASEAN nationals”.

“A review of the document adopted falls short of the above aspirations,” said Joseph. “Despite the ambitious claim, it continues to retain mediocre ASEAN commitment.An example is the commitment to eradicating corruption which seem to focus more on ‘establishing support’, ‘developing programmes’ and ‘strengthening cooperation’, rather than actual commitment on policy and institutional changes. This is typical of ASEAN adopting the lowest common denominator as the threshold for action.”

This new vision gave the possibility of a new approach. Unfortunately it is again a missed opportunity.

The human rights agenda of ASEAN in its Vision 2025 yet again focuses too much on the promotional aspect without a solid protection framework inserted.

Civil society’s call for the mainstreaming human rights in the ASEAN Community 2015 process and in the ASEAN Vision 2015 has again been ignored or given peripheral attention.

“Commitment to human rights is again rather fragmented and established in silos in the 3 pillars’ blueprints,” said Wathshlah Naidu of Women’s Aid Organisation Malaysia, who led the drafting of the ACSC/APF 2015 statement and outcome document.

“It has not holistically addressed how Asean plans to respond to and share resources in addressing emerging issues and issues exacerbated by regional integration such as migration, asylum seekers and refugees and heightened extremism and terrorism.

“Purely addressing these regional concerns as security issues without a grounding in human rights principles and standards creates the path for continued human rights violations.”

Naidu added that “gender equality and the diversity of peoples of ASEAN are also not reflected comprehensively in the Vision.

“Eliminating all forms of discrimination and human rights violations is fundamental towards achieving regional integration that is rooted in achieving equality of all ASEAN countries and its peoples.”

Another key concern raised by civil society is the lack of meaningful and substantive participation, inclusion and representation of all peoples of ASEAN in the drafting process of the ASEAN Vision 2025.

“As civil society, we demand that ASEAN stop co-opting its peoples through its rhetoric on ‘people-centred’ or ‘people-oriented’ mantras without genuinely making the commitment and institutionalising a process where all interests of its diverse peoples are included in its policy documents and agreements through meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders,” said Soe Min Than of Think Center Singapore, who is also a member of the ACSC/APF 2015 Regional Steering Committee.

“ASEAN can only demonstrate its commitment to community building and implementation of the ASEAN Community agenda and the ASEAN Vision 2025 by ensuring engagement of all stakeholders through multifaceted dialogue, feedback and effective participation in determining and shaping the aspiration and future of the region and its peoples.”

As ASEAN moves on with its summit with various dialogue partners, ASEAN civil society again reiterates its concerns and recommendations made over the last 10 years of engagement and calls on ASEAN to escalate its responses to the interventions by the civil society.

“We look forward to strengthened solidarity, understanding and coordinated actions among ASEAN and civil society as key stakeholder for a truly ‘people-oriented, people-centred and rules-based ASEAN Community’,” said Pen Somony of the Cambodian Volunteers for Society, who is also a member of the ACSC/APF 2015 Regional Steering Committee.


US President Barack Obama calls for debate on TPPA

November 21, 2015

COMMENT: I welcome US President Barack Obama’s statement that the TPPA should be debated by the general public. The President is fully aware that this trade pact affects our lives.

The TPPA must not just serve the interest of US corporations at the expense of other stakeholders. This debate will happen in the United States which practises  open, transparent and accountable governance. But I am not sure about Malaysia.

Our government is well-known for using the Official Secrets Act toMustapa-Mohamed-TPPA-300x202 keep the Malaysian public in the dark on matters of national importance. It also is arrogant and presumptuous to think that “government knows best”. Its handling of the TPPA negotiation is no exception.

We have, however, been assured by our MITI Minister, Dato’ Mustafa Mohamed, that his ministry will be organising some sort of dialogue cum briefing for all stakeholders including Malaysian business and other civil society organisations, which have raised serious and valid concerns about the TPPA. So far, I am not sure if the Minister has kept his word. Perhaps, the Minister is still waiting for the “right time”. The right time is now, so please get on with it.

There should also be a White Paper to our Parliament, giving a full account of the recently completed round of negotiations in Atlanta and the benefits and costs of this pact to Malaysia. Our parliamentarians should be allowed to debate it and reach a consensus.–Din Merican

US President Barack Obama calls for debate on TPPA

by Reuters

Obama at Taylors University

US President Barack Obama gestures while speaks at a meeting with students from the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative at Taylor’s University in Kuala Lumpur, November 20, 2015. — Reuters pic

US President Barack Obama launched a defence today of a signature Pacific trade pact kept largely under wraps and said the public would get its say before legislators in each country debate the full details.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a “mega-regional accord” covering four-tenths of global GDP, was so complex it would not have materialised if all interest groups were involved in the protracted talks, he said.

“If you are negotiating with 12 countries and there’s no space for everyone to agree on the deal … then it would never get done,” Obama said during a town hall at a Kuala Lumpur University.

“The nature of the trade agreement is so many interests are involved, so what we’ve done instead is close the initial deal, it’s subject to review ….each country then has to ratify and it’s subject to the legislatures.”

Obama was responding to a question from a Malaysian youth who said the TPP was elitist and excluded most voices. Barring occasional leaks, details of the TPP have been kept secret during the more than five years of negotiations, angering those affected by its broad implications.

“I still have to get it past Congress,” Obama added. “I believe it’s a good deal and we’ll get it done, but there’s no guarantee.”

The pact could come up against some opposition in Washington. Obama has long championed the deal but needs to muster support among moderates to ensure ratification.

He recently said it would allow the United States to “write the rules of the road” for 21st century trade, but warned: “If America doesn’t write those rules, then countries like China will.”

The pact covers countries from Japan, Canada and Australia to Mexico, Vietnam and Malaysia and would slash tariffs between them and set common standards on issues ranging from workers’ rights to intellectual property protection.

Obama used the US pharmaceutical industry as an example of resistance and how concessions needed to be made.“We were very specific in the chapter to say that we have to protect generics for low-income persons,” he said.

“Here’s proof that this wasn’t just some giveaway to the drugs companies. Right now a lot of drugs companies in the United States are mad at me because they said ‘how come we didn’t get more protection?’

“Well, part of our job is to promote the US drug industry but part of our job is also to be good partners with countries that have people who are sick.”  — Reuters–

The New Philippines under President Benigno Aquino III

November 17, 2015

The New Philippines under President Benigno Aquino III

By Karim Raslan

karim-raslan-ceritalahThe international spotlight is on the Philippines this week as host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit, which will be attended by leaders from 21 major economies, including the United States, China and Japan.

The Philippines has long been seen as a basket case, in part because of decades of misrule stemming from the gross abuses of former President Ferdinand Marcos. However, times have changed and the archipelagic nation is finally stepping out of the shadows of its more illustrious neighbours.

According to the World Bank, from 2011 to last year, the Philippine economy grew by an average of 5.95 per cent, surpassing Vietnam and Indonesia’s 5.7 per cent as well as Singapore’s 4.2 per cent.

Elsewhere, the Philippines is also fast catching up. From 2010 to 2014, the country soared from 134th to 85th place in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (an increase of 49 places), compared with Indonesia’s 110th to 107th and Vietnam’s decline from 116th to 119th.

The Philippines’ iconic IT-business process outsourcing (or BPO) sector last year brought in US$18 billion (RM78.8 billion) in revenue — providing some 1.3 million Filipinos with middle-class jobs and salaries that underpin a consumer-led boom in housing and transportation.

President B Aquino !!!

One man, President Benigno Aquino III (above), has been central to this transformation. Nonetheless, when Mr Aquino ran for President in 2010, many detractors accused him of being little less than a shallow, inexperienced political princeling, seeking to leverage off the aura of his martyred father Benigno Aquino Jr and his then recently deceased mother, the former President Corazon Aquino.

On the cusp of this week’s APEC summit in the Philippine capital and six months before Filipinos go to the polls to elect his successor, the President was upbeat in a 90-minute interview in the jewel-like confines of the historic, Narra-wood-panelled Malacanang Palace.

“Give the Filipino the right environment and he or she will shine,” he said, adding, “(Our success stems) from the fundamental belief that the greatest resource of this country is our people.”

To prevent unemployment among graduates, for instance, Mr Aquino has pushed for greater coordination between education providers and the industry. His administration has also expanded a Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, which helps poor families keep their children in school. Under him, the Department of Health has also enjoyed a 300 per cent budget increase.

But his success has not only been economic. Mr Aquino has won plaudits for his crackdown on corruption. He allowed prosecutors to move against both his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and a number of senior senators, as well as countenancing the impeachment of controversial Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, saying: “Now the highest positions are also being made to account for their actions.”

He added: “We started out with the phrase, ‘If you eliminate corruption, you can eliminate poverty’. We will not tolerate the situation where cronies become monopolies … because it just keeps us where we are. We don’t grow. We actually stagnate.”

Asked what he sees as his signature achievement during his term, Mr Aquino said: “The rekindling of the pride of Filipino … their attitude, their perceptions of the present and future.”

Of course, problems remain. Infrastructure spending is lacklustre at only 4 per cent of gross domestic product. Manila’s electricity rates are amongst the priciest in Asia-Pacific. Traffic is still awful and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport remains far from ideal.

Also, Mr Aquino’s goal of reducing the number of “balikbayan”, or overseas Filipino workers, appears to have stalled, although the overall number has fallen to 9.1 million from 10 million previously. There is also the nagging question of whether the turnaround can continue after Mr Aquino leaves office. As he explained: “I would say my nightmare would be everything that has been achieved will get unravelled in the next six years.”

He was forthcoming on the South China Sea issue, insisting that the on-going territorial dispute with China had not hurt trade and tourism ties.

As he told me, in 2011, Chinese companies invested US$600 million in the Philippines while more than 800,000 Filipinos visited mainland China annually. Clearly, he wishes not to let the dispute define his country’s bilateral relations with China.

Despite The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration’s recent ruling that it could hear the Philippines’ request for adjudication against China on the issue, Mr Aquino stressed: “Our actions are not meant to exacerbate tensions. We do not envision ourselves as having offensive capability against anybody.”

Mr Aquino also welcomed the impending formation of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community. “I’m a firm believer that you cannot have a sheltered economy and expect it to grow. We cannot have those inefficiencies and expect to be able to compete on a worldwide basis,” he said.

“We see ourselves as having a bigger voice on the world stage because of our presence in ASEAN, especially since we have one of the biggest populations proportional to the rest.” — TODAY


TPPA–A Web of Corporate Laws for US Global Dominance

November 11, 2015

MY COMMENT: TPPA is Obama’s parting gift to corporateKam and Din2 America, and an electoral boost for Hilary Clinton. Read Chris Hedges’s comments carefully. But then we can say well done to Mr. Obama for doing a great service to American business. The US President did not disappoint those capitalists who made it possible for him to achieve the distinction of becoming the first African-American George Washington. We can even say that it is America’s business to secure economic dominance and that is also Obama’s job to protect US corporations even though there is opposition to the TPPA from American labor and civil society groups.

What I do not understand is why Malaysia should be a party to the TPPA when it is not shown to be beneficial to us and why our government is not open and transparent in its dealings on the matter. It is time for the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) Minister, Dato Mustapha Mohamed, to present a White Paper to Parliament and for the matter to be debated in our Legislature.

Malaysian voters, civil society groups, corporations and labour unions have the right to know whether the Najib administration has given away our kitchen sink in order to appease the Obama Administration.  Anyway, what is so special about Obama. He is an American President who has pledged to defend American interests like all Presidents before him. If the TPPA benefits Malaysia, Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib  Razak should crow about it, instead of maintaining his customary elegant silence–Din Merican

TPPA–A Web of Corporate Laws for US Global Dominance

by Chris Hedges

U.S. President Barack REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

U.S. President Barack REUTERS/Hugh Gentry–What is the Deal?  Why the Secrecy?

The release Thursday of the 5,544-page text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade and investment agreement involving 12 countries comprising nearly 40 percent of global output—confirms what even its most apocalyptic critics feared.

“The TPP, along with the WTO [World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], is the most brazen corporate power grab in American history,” Ralph Nader told me when I reached him by phone in Washington, D.C. “It allows corporations to bypass our three branches of government to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare our labor, consumer and environmental protections [to be] unlawful, non-tariff barriers subject to fines for noncompliance. The TPP establishes a transnational, autocratic system of enforceable governance in defiance of our domestic laws.”

The TPP is part of a triad of trade agreements that includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TiSA, by calling for the privatization of all public services, is a mortal threat to the viability of the U.S. Postal Service, public education and other government-run enterprises and utilities; together these operations make up 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The TTIP and TiSA are still in the negotiation phase. They will follow on the heels of the TPP and are likely to go before Congress in 2017.

These three agreements solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.

The TPP removes legislative authority from Congress and the White House on a range of issues. Judicial power is often surrendered to three-person trade tribunals in which only corporations are permitted to sue. Workers, environmental and advocacy groups and labor unions are blocked from seeking redress in the proposed tribunals. The rights of corporations become sacrosanct. The rights of citizens are abolished.

The Sierra Club issued a statement after the release of the TPP text saying that the “deal is rife with polluter giveaways that would undermine decades of environmental progress, threaten our climate, and fail to adequately protect wildlife because big polluters helped write the deal.”

If there is no sustained popular uprising to prevent the passage of the TPP in Congress this spring we will be shackled by corporate power. Wages will decline. Working conditions will deteriorate. Unemployment will rise. Our few remaining rights will be revoked. The assault on the ecosystem will be accelerated. Banks and global speculation will be beyond oversight or control. Food safety standards and regulations will be jettisoned. Public services ranging from Medicare and Medicaid to the post office and public education will be abolished or dramatically slashed and taken over by for-profit corporations. Prices for basic commodities, including pharmaceuticals, will skyrocket. Social assistance programs will be drastically scaled back or terminated. And countries that have public health care systems, such as Canada and Australia, that are in the agreement will probably see their public health systems collapse under corporate assault. Corporations will be empowered to hold a wide variety of patents, including over plants and animals, turning basic necessities and the natural world into marketable products. And, just to make sure corporations extract every pound of flesh, any public law interpreted by corporations as impeding projected profit, even a law designed to protect the environment or consumers, will be subject to challenge in an entity called the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) section. The ISDS, bolstered and expanded under the TPP, will see corporations paid massive sums in compensation from offending governments for impeding their “right” to further swell their bank accounts. Corporate profit effectively will replace the common good.

Given the bankruptcy of our political class—including amoral politicians such as Hillary Clinton, who is denouncing the TPP during the presidential campaign but whose unwavering service to corporate capitalism assures her fealty to her corporate backers—the trade agreement has a good chance of becoming law. And because the Obama administration won fast-track authority, a tactic designed by the Nixon administration to subvert democratic debate, President Obama will be able to sign the agreement before it goes to Congress.

The TPP, because of fast track, bypasses the normal legislative process of public discussion and consideration by congressional committees. The House and the Senate, which have to vote on the TPP bill within 90 days of when it is sent to Congress, are prohibited by the fast-track provision from adding floor amendments or holding more than 20 hours of floor debate. Congress cannot raise concerns about the effects of the TPP on the environment. It can only vote yes or no. It is powerless to modify or change one word.

There will be a mass mobilization November 14 through 18 in Washington to begin the push to block the TPP. Rising up to stop the TPP is a far, far better investment of our time and energy than engaging in the empty political theater that passes for a presidential campaign.

“The TPP creates a web of corporate laws that will dominate the global economy,” attorney Kevin Zeese of the group Popular Resistance, which has mounted a long fight against the trade agreement, told me from Baltimore by telephone. “It is a global corporate coup d’état. Corporations will become more powerful than countries. Corporations will force democratic systems to serve their interests. Civil courts around the world will be replaced with corporate courts or so-called trade tribunals. This is a massive expansion that builds on the worst of NAFTA rather than what Barack Obama promised, which was to get rid of the worst aspects of NAFTA.”

The agreement is the product of six years of work by global capitalists from banks, insurance companies, Goldman Sachs, Monsanto and other corporations.

“It was written by them [the corporations], it is for them and it will serve them,” Zeese said of the TPP. “It will hurt domestic businesses and small businesses. The buy-American provisions will disappear. Local communities will not be allowed to build buy-local campaigns. The thrust of the agreement is the privatization and commodification of everything. The agreement has built within it a deep antipathy to state-supported or state-owned enterprises. It gives away what is left of our democracy to the World Trade Organization.”

The economist David Rosnick, in a report on the TPP by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), estimated that under the trade agreement only the top 10 percent of U.S. workers would see their wages increase. Rosnick wrote that the real wages of middle-income U.S. workers (from the 35th percentile to the 80th percentile) would decline under the TPP. NAFTA, contributing to a decline in manufacturing jobs (now only 9 percent of the economy), has forced workers into lower-paying service jobs and resulted in a decline in real wages of between 12 and 17 percent. The TPP would only accelerate this process, Rosnick concluded.

“This is a continuation of the global race to the bottom,” Dr. Margaret Flowers, also from Popular Resistance and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said from Baltimore in a telephone conversation with me. “Corporations are free to move to countries that have the lowest labor standards. This drives down high labor standards here. It means a decimation of industries and unions. It means an accelerated race to the bottom, which we must rise up to stop.”

“In Malaysia one-third of tech workers are essentially slaves,” Zeese said. “In Vietnam the minimum wage is 35 cents an hour. Once these countries are part of the trade agreement U.S. workers are put in a very difficult position.”

Fifty-one percent of working Americans now make less than $30,000 a year, a new study by the Social Security Administration reported. Forty percent are making less than $20,000 a year. The federal government considers a family of four living on an income of less than $24,250 to be in poverty.

“Half of American workers earn essentially the poverty level,” Zeese said. “This agreement only accelerates this trend. I don’t see how American workers are going to cope.”

The assault on the American workforce by NAFTA—which was established under the Clinton administration in 1994 and which at the time promised creation of 200,000 net jobs a year in the United States—has been devastating. NAFTA has led to a $181 billion trade deficit with Mexico and Canada and the loss of at least 1 million U.S. jobs, according to a report by Public Citizen. The flooding of the Mexican market with cheap corn by U.S. agro-businesses drove down the price of Mexican corn and saw 1 million to 3 million poor Mexican farmers go bankrupt and lose their small farms. Many of them crossed the border into the United States in a desperate effort to find work.

“Obama has misled the public throughout this process,” Dr. Flowers said. “He claimed that environmental groups were supportive of the agreement because it provided environmental protections, and this has now been proven false. He told us that it would create 650,000 jobs, and this has now been proven false. He calls this a 21st century trade agreement, but it actually rolls back progress made in Bush-era trade agreements. The most recent model of a 21st century trade agreement is the Korean free trade agreement. That was supposed to create 140,000 U.S. jobs. But what we saw within a couple of years was a loss of about 70,000 jobs and a larger trade deficit with Korea. This agreement [the TPP] is sold to us with the same deceits that were used to sell us NAFTA and other trade agreements.”

The agreement, in essence, becomes global law. Any agreements over carbon emissions by countries made through the United Nations are effectively rendered null and void by the TPP.

“Trade agreements are binding,” Flowers said. “They supersede any of the nonbinding agreements made by the United Nations Climate Change Conference that might come out of Paris.”

There is more than enough evidence from past trade agreements to indicate where the TPP—often called “NAFTA on steroids”—will lead. It is part of the inexorable march by corporations to wrest from us the ability to use government to defend the public and to build social and political organizations that promote the common good. Our corporate masters seek to turn the natural world and human beings into malleable commodities that will be used and exploited until exhaustion or collapse. Trade agreements are the tools being used to achieve this subjugation. The only response left is open, sustained and defiant popular revolt.