The Small Business Case Against “Fast Track” for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Below is a hyperlinked and slightly expanded edit of AMIBA’s letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to this report.

Re “Trans-Pacific Partnership Seen as Door for Foreign Suits Against U.S.” (March 25, 2015). You say the TPP “is supported by a wide variety of business groups.” While this is true, it’s also misleading, since TPP also is opposed by a vast range of business groups — especially those representing community-based businesses.

The American Independent Business Alliance opposes this secretive process because, as the leaked content proves, the TPP would revoke the ability of communities to support local entrepreneurs and build their own local business base. As the Times report notes “Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a member nation would be forbidden from favoring ‘goods produced in its territory.'”

This means such common and common-sense policy as local procurement preferences — which give local governments discretion to choose a highly competitive bid from a local company over one from an absentee corporation — could be negated by remote three-person panels. Under TPP, the corporation suing a community would literally hand-pick one of these decision-makers, while the other two would merely be corporate lawyers thoroughly entwined in conflicts of interests.

And while the U.S. government has the capacity to fight frivolous corporate lawsuits, the mere threat of a costly legal battle would force most communities and even some states to repeal laws challenged as impediments to maximizing corporate profits. Corporations like Altria (Philip Morris) seek to strip entire nations of their sovereignty by challenging laws inarguably intended to protect public health (cigarette marketing regulations), not discriminate. Altria’s annual revenue exceeds the gross domestic product of Uruguay. Without outside support, their government likely would have been bullied into repealing their laws already.

Caps on the size of “big box” stores, impact fees, small business contracting preferences and many other policies that help build livable, entrepreneur-friendly communities would be vulnerable to attack if multinational corporations can sue whenever regulations prevent them from maximizing profits.

The battle over the TPP should not be over-simplified as being business v democracy. It’s a battle of the largest global corporations and their mouthpieces against the rest of us, including the overwhelming majority of America’s small businesses.

Jeff Milchen is a co-founder of the American Independent Business Alliance. 

Related Resources

Another thoughtful analysis of the NY Times article that provoked this post

COOL Ruling Shows Trade Pacts’ Threat to Consumers, Small Businesses (AMIBA op-ed in Washington Times)

Letter from the American Sustainable Business Council letter (pdf) to the U.S. Trade Representative

Free Trade Isn’t the Goal of These Treaties

The Small Business Case Against “Fast Track” for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Public Citizen’s Eyes on Trade offers regular reporting on developments with TPP and a fact sheet (pdf) addressing small business benefits and impacts.

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