Small businesses and entrepreneurs are foundations of strong communities. Yet as with previous international trade agreements, small businesses are not at the table negotiating the details of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Instead, the TPP is being drafted by the representatives of more than 600 major corporations. Unlike the owners of cooperatives and community businesses, the owners and managers of big capital are unconcerned about the economic impact of trade policies on local communities and the people who live in them.
Last week, my congressman, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) presented a letter signed by 35 freshman lawmakers demanding increased transparency from the Obama administration on the TPP and urging Congress not to give up its constitutional authority to oversee foreign trade agreements, saying that:
“As a small business owner, I’ve seen the number of Made in America products available to me dwindle sharply in the past decade because of the unintended consequences of so-called “free” trade agreements. Congress cannot repeat the mistakes of the past by standing by and blindly agreeing to new trade agreements without proper regulation. The administration should make the draft TPP FTA texts public and allow Congress to conduct our constitutionally-mandated oversight so we can ensure economic growth here in America.”
If the TPP is ratified by the Senate and signed by the President it will override many American laws. Incredibly, the Obama administration is currently pushing to apply the Buy American Act, which gives preferential treatment to American producers in awarding federal contracts, to several nations involved in the Trans-Pacific agreement negotiations.
Another threat the TPP poses to local businesses and our communities is its impact on local procurement laws that many cities use to keep money circulating locally in our economies. These procurement laws would be deemed “barriers to trade” under the TPP. Thus, any "investor" that happens to be incorporated in one of the 11 other TPP countries would be empowered to launch its own litigatory attack on our domestic laws in global trade courts – potentially costing municipalities millions of dollars. Even in instances where these lawsuits don’t materialize, simply the threat of litigation will be enough to undermine the buy local movement.
Instead of the TPP and trade policies that promote big, unaccountable corporations at the expense of small, community businesses, we need a global economic policy that rewards accountability, sustainability, and transparency. A green administration in Washington D.C. would implement a Green New Deal to reconstruct our economy from the bottom up on the basis of full employment and a transition to a sustainable economy. Small businesses and cooperatives are critical actors in any such economic transition.
~ Sarah Grace Manski is administrator of the Small Business Administration in the Economy Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet. She is co-owner of the green business marketplace PosiPair.com and a co-founder of the Wisconsin Wave. This statement is one of over a dozen issued in support of the Green Shadow Cabinet's June 17th call for action against the TPP.