By Rose Marcario, Patagonia CEO
Now that full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has finally been made public, we can say unequivocally that we oppose it, as it advances the interests of big business at the expense of the environment, workers, consumers, communities and small businesses. This confirms our previous fears (here and here) about the agreement’s serious social and environmental costs.
The proposed trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, crafted behind closed doors over a five-year period, may indeed cut tariffs, increase trade and build closer economic and regulatory relationships among its signatories, as its proponents say. But it will also weaken worldwide labor standards, harm the global environment, diminish regulatory safeguards and enable corporations and individuals that already have far too much influence gain even more at the expense of everyone else.
The proposed trade agreement was released to the public on Nov. 5 and is now available for review and modification before Congress votes on it some months from now. Countries that are party to the agreement include: the U.S., Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru, which together represent about 800 million people and 40 percent of global trade.
Why would Patagonia oppose a trade deal that likely would benefit our bottom line? Because beyond being in business to make money, we’re a mission-driven company working to use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. We also seek to promote better, safer and healthier living and working conditions for the people who make our clothing and gear. And we want to see full transparency in the workings of business and government.
We see none of those things in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Experience tells us that trade agreements tend to serve the few and the monied at the expense of others. These deals are often opaque (often intentionally so) and rife with unknown or unspoken consequences. We saw this with NAFTA and GATT, which eviscerated the U.S. textile industry, greatly limiting our company’s ability to make products here at home.
At Patagonia, we design and market clothing, gear and food, relying heavily on the expertise of trusted partners to produce them. We also partner with NGOs and individuals in the environmental, conservation, wildlife, labor and agriculture communities who study agreements like the TPP to measure their effects on the greater good. Here are a few of their concerns, which we share. You can find more robust discussions online.
- TPP Lacks Transparency: The proposed agreement was created behind closed doors, influenced heavily by corporate lobbyists and lawyers representing those who stand to benefit most.
- TPP Promotes Fossil Fuels: The words “climate change” do not appear anywhere in the agreement, demonstrating real disregard for the most pressing environmental problem we face. TPP promotes domestic exportation of liquefied natural gas, encouraging even more fracking here at home and expanding the use of climate-changing fossil fuels worldwide at the expense of renewable energy.
- TPP Threatens Food Safety: The agreement would erode efforts to protect consumers and improve food safety, sovereignty and labeling. Instead it benefits today’s widespread model of industrial agriculture and food production based on GMOs, synthetic chemicals, antibiotics and additives.
- TPP Weakens Labor Protections: The agreement defends labor standards but offers no new requirements for countries to enforce such standards among suppliers.
- TPP Fails to Protect Wildlife: The agreement does little to protect wildlife habitat, address illegal wildlife trade or fight poaching.
- TPP Threatens Legal Protections: Investor-State Dispute Settlement, which is used in TPP and other trade agreements, allows foreign companies to challenge domestic laws and regulations written to protect U.S. consumers and communities. Instead of U.S. courts arbitrating those disputes, the job would fall to the World Bank or a division of the United Nations.
As Congress considers TPP, we must ask, who benefits? Does it serve the many, in our country and abroad, or only a few—those who have the economic and political muscle to get their interests written, opaquely and without public oversight, into law? We oppose TPP because the costs for the environment, workers, consumers, communities and small businesses would outweigh any potential gains. We encourage individuals to contact their elected representatives in Washington and voice these concerns.