‘Free trade’ deal will only make the rich richer

Paul Schwietering
By Paul Schwietering

While the Washington press is distracted by the controversies over the State Department’s Benghazi “talking points” and whether or not the IRS should have asked any questions before granting “Tea Party” “social welfare” organizations tax-exempt status, the Obama administration is negotiating a “free trade” agreement which has the potential to lower the American standard of living in much the same way that NAFTA and “Most Favored Nation” trade status for China did.

The trade agreement is called the “Trans-Pacific Partnership.”  Besides the United States, the other nations participating are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and now possibly Japan.  The administration will not let any member of Congress, of either party, see what they are negotiating.  However, hundreds of corporations have been given access to the text of the agreement.

Leaked drafts of portions of the agreement reveal that our negotiators are seeking increased patent protection for our pharmaceutical companies, among other things.  This indicates that this “trade agreement” will follow the pattern of every “trade agreement” negotiated under every President (of either party) over the past 30 years; patent protection for wealthy corporations and the opportunity for corporations to ship jobs overseas to nations with Fascist or Communist governments that keep their workers in a state of serfdom, combined with the opportunity to then bring the manufactured product into the United Sates without paying a tariff.  It seems like a pretty good deal for corporate CEO’s and wealthy investors.

For the average American citizen it means fewer manufacturing jobs and lower wages for those jobs that remain (high rates of unemployment serve to keep wages low).

Of course, the proponents of this “trade agreement” (just as the proponents of “Most Favored Nation” trade status for China did) will claim that this “trade agreement” will “create jobs.”  The AFL-CIO will claim that the agreement will cause a net loss of jobs.

The proponents of the “trade agreement” will be misleading anyone naïve enough to listen to them, but they will avoid telling a direct and categorical lie because there is no doubt that a relatively small number of jobs will be created in the U.S. to export a few products to some of the other signatory nations.  However, a far larger number of American jobs will be eliminated to take advantage of the starvation wages paid in some of the poorer signatory nations, resulting in a net loss of jobs.  The AFL-CIO will be found to have told the truth on the matter.  We’ve seen this movie before.

While I can see why desperate nations such as Vietnam would enter into such an agreement, I am surprised that Australia and New Zealand would even consider it.  Perhaps they intend to be like the Germans or the French, who sign trade agreements but find ways to protect their industries.

In the United States, of course, our political process is so corrupted by corporate money and influence (in both parties) that the people who have been paying attention are no longer surprised when an administration takes actions that damage the standard of living of 90 percent of the population in order to increase the wealth of the richest 1 percent.

Paul Schwietering is a former Democratic state central committeeman for the 14th state senate district.