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It appears President Obama has not even read TPP trade agreement

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama
Susan Walsh, Associated Press

President Obama has finally managed to unite both liberals and conservatives, from Sen. Elizabeth Warren to Rush Limbaugh, on at least one issue — a condemnation of the trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 Pacific nations — known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that the president has been heavily lobbying for.

To begin with, the cloak of secrecy draped over the whole process should raise serious suspicion. The president has chided resistant members of Congress claiming they have had full access to a draft of the trade agreement, but this is what “access” consists of. It is a massive document, written in technical jargon that would be difficult for anyone to decipher under any circumstances. Congressmen have to go into a private room to read it, they can’t take it out of that room, they can’t take any notes out with them, they can’t bring their staff or other experts with them, they are forbidden to discuss it in public, they have even been threatened with prosecution if they tell others what is in the document.

Not surprisingly, only a handful of Congress members have read the agreement. Some have noted that if they don’t have a photographic memory there’s no realistic way they can grasp the contents of the draft. Is it really plausible that the TPP is so much in the public interest that the public and their representatives can’t be allowed to know about it?

The genesis of the trade negotiations is equally alarming. From the beginning, 600 representatives of multinational corporations were given the prime seats at the table. That alone should be a red flag, because the agenda of multinational corporations is frequently at odds with the interests of average U.S. citizens. Some of the TPP document has been leaked to a public watchdog group, Public Citizen. Now we know why the secrecy.

The TPP has become a corporate “all-you-can-eat” buffet, offering a staggering array of corporate treats. Obama’s first trade representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk, told the media "if the American people knew what was in this agreement it would never become law." It is an unthinkable give-away to multinational corporations that even attacks U.S. sovereignty.

Domestic laws on environmental and consumer protection, food safety standards, labor laws and banking regulations could all be dodged by multinational corporations operating in the U.S. In fact, it would give these corporations the right to sue any level of government — local, state or federal — over any law they claim would diminish their “expected” future profits.

These lawsuits are already happening under existing trade agreements. The drug company Eli Lily is suing Canada for $500 million on this basis. Germany is being sued by a Swedish corporation for phasing out nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. A French company is suing Egypt for raising its minimum wage.

Last year, the U.S. was ordered to open up all U.S. roads to Mexican registered trucks regardless of their tail pipe emissions or safety standards. Cigarette maker Phillip Morris is suing Uruguay for policies curbing public smoking.

Last week, the World Trade Organization, citing existing trade agreements, ordered the U.S. to abandon “Country of Origin” meat labeling, which currently allows consumers to know where their meat comes from. The TPP will make it so you can’t find out where your food originated. Some of it will come from countries like China, which just got approved to export apples to the U.S., and where chemical and heavy metal contamination of air, water and soil is simply horrendous.

Recently the president said, “Critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation — food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations. They’re making this stuff up. This is just not true.” It appears as though the president hasn’t read the TPP, or even existing trade agreements. Sen. Warren and Rush Limbaugh are not making this up; it’s already happening.

Dr. Brian Moench is the president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.