Students and Professors Reflect on TPP, TTIP Trade Agreements Following Rules, Rights, and Resistance Conference

Analyses surrounding two recent international trade agreements have intensified at SGPIA after an audience of nearly 200 people gathered at The New School on April 29 for the Rules, Rights and Resistance Conference: The Battle Over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). 18 leading academics and advocatesfrom the fields of economics, health, environment, and government presented their diverse perspectives throughout the conference’s four panels that focused on how the trade agreements will globally impact economy and labor; health and food; and environment and climate.

SGPIA Professors Everita Silina and Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, who co-organized the conference, gave varied responses when asked about the importance of such a rigorous discussion surrounding the trade agreements. Professor Everita Silina, who specializes in global governance, explained, “Because they are sold as technical responses to a set of technical (read, non-political) problems, [trade deals] evade scrutiny. As such, they represent more than a massive policy-making mechanism; they considerably narrow the legitimate sphere of public debate and are a threat to any meaningful functioning democracy.”

Professor Fukuda-Parr, who specializes in development economics, explained, “Removing obstacles to trade is only a small part of these deals. What is more at stake is a set of investment related provisions in areas such as intellectual property, government procurement, food safety, and investor/state disputes settlement. Such policies have serious direct social consequences that go far beyond trade liberalization.”

Professor Fukuda-Parr regularly lectured on the TPP and TTIP agreements in the Development Economics course she taught this Spring semester. Students in the course wrote papers and gave presentations on how each trade agreement will undermine social goods. Excerpts from three student projects in the class appear below.

Student Julia Levin on how the TPP and TTIP will deepen global inequality

“The implications of new levels of trade liberalization—which the TPP/TTIP deals support— are vast. Yet simple economic theory points to the fact that the deals will widen inequalities and decrease jobs within the United States while continuing to support low-wage job creation in the outside of the country. As the market will clear at the lowest possible price it is not difficult to see that low wage labor will be further expanded through these deals.  While there are many that claim reduced taxes will mean more money into the economy through increased spending and job creation, we can see that past trade deals such as NAFTA did not lead to these types of results. The NAFTA offshoring incentives, which the TPP would expand, have contributed to the net loss of more than 57,000 American manufacturing facilities and nearly 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs – one out of every four – since the deal took effect. There’s no reason to believe that TPP would act any differently by supporting jobs within the United States, since it allows for more low-paying offshore jobs to be created.”

Student Heartie Look-Dougherty on how the TPP and TTIP are a red flag for environmentalists

“Opening up the market will lead to the extraction and shipment of more liquefied natural gas from the U.S., requiring more CO2 emitting fuel to power the shipments, and leading to more methane in the atmosphere once that natural gas is burned. Furthermore, because of a free trade law that permits foreign companies to exploit natural resources of another participating country, the U.S. will face many lawsuits from industry members that wish to destroy our communities in the name of profit. The increased production levels that the TPP will result in will also mean more chemical usage. This is an environmental and public health danger since there are many chemicals being used outside, and within, the U.S. that are not known, nor are their effects on the human body or our ecosystem.The lack of detail on how the grand promises and environmental regulations promised by the TPP will be executed on the ground across the trade network, combined with the increase in fossil fuel and chemical use, are a red flag for environmentalists and the general public.”

Student Tim Sughrue on how the TPP and TTIP would have far-reaching consequences in the sectors of health and food safety

“The TPP is problematic for many vulnerable populations, especially the poor and un(der)insured, as it not only reinforces existing policies which limit access to much needed specialty pharmaceuticals, but would actually extend the drug monopolies. Furthermore, the TPP sets itself up for success by creating the Investor-State dispute settlement mechanism. Should any investor feel that their profits are limited by international or domestic laws, they have the right to sue through this arbitration system.

The TTIP is particularly focused on US agricultural exports and growth in their share of the European market. The problem is that the higher health and food safety standards of the European Union stand in their way. This deal removes such barriers as food labelling laws, safety standards, and pesticide regulations to allow the US to dump inferior goods into the market. TTIP sacrifices Europe’s right to discriminate what goes into their bodies in order to secure higher profits for US producers.”

Professor Fukuda-Parr summarizes the messages emerging from academics and advocates advocating against the TTIP and TPP by stating, “The consistent message is this: TPP/TTIP are new kinds of trade agreements that reduce policy space and severely undermine the ability of governments to regulate investments to protect health, environment, food safety, labor rights, and other public priorities. We need to challenge not just the TPP and TTIP but the approach to governing economic globalization that use the enforcement power of trade to reduce risks for investors at the expense of public interest.”