Results tagged “Say No To TPP” from PlanetGreen.org

Say No to TPP at the Polls

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UPDATE: It's nearly been a year since we first launched our "Say No to TPP" initiative on PlanetGreen, and voters have indeed made the security of American jobs a priority in this election. The people have spoken -- Donald Trump is now officially our next President-elect, and it's high time we all put aside the vitriolic rhetoric of the past months and rally around our nation's new opportunity for renewed international prominence and economic regenesis. Thank you all for reading our varied perspectives on the election.

The election is rapidly approaching, and the race is still closer than anyone expected. In these final days both candidates are stating their concluding reasons why they are better suited for the presidency than their adversaries: Hillary Clinton stresses her foreign policy shrewdness and her opponent's volatility, while Donald Trump returns to his core messages of bringing back our jobs and strengthening our national economy.

The vital issue of trade has proved to be a priority for voters this election cycle, and for good reason. Past deals such as NAFTA continue to fuel both the exodus of American manufacturing and the influx of immigrants from Mexico, and these disastrous effects do impact our daily lives - by hindering true economic recovery, by diminishing our international status, and by flooding our store shelves with imported products posing risks to our health and safety.

These threats to our persons and our collective prosperity are real, but not only has the Obama administration has refused to acknowledge the failure of NAFTA, it has proposed an even larger-scale repetition of that mistake, commonly known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This would allow unlimited free trade with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, and leave open the possibility that China or Russia could potentially join the agreement in future years. An incomplete sampling of the TPP's unconscionable provisions:

→ A mandatory arbitration system would be instituted, in which foreign companies could challenge U.S. laws without ever setting foot in United States courts. The adjudicatory panel, known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system, would be composed of corporate lawyers who would rotate between the roles of practitioner and judge. However, even though alien businesses could remotely strike down our statutes, the government would have to resort to a foreign judiciary to enforce the few regulatory safeguards in the agreement.
→ Pharmaceutical companies holding United States patents would be given longer terms of monopoly than provided for anywhere in our patent law. This would artificially raise the prices of many lifesaving medications and obstruct free competition by prohibiting the production of generic alternatives.
→ The United States would lose its sovereignty, supplanted by the foreign rule of the ISDS, and citizens would lose many rights guaranteed them by our national legislation: the Wagner Act, fracking regulations, food safety measures, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and even the Sherman and Clayton Acts are in danger. Adding insult to injury, taxpayers could be forced to compensate extrinsic businesses for profit "losses" engendered by these essential measures.
→ Private Internet service providers would not only be allowed to monitor users' activities, they would be granted the authority to remove consumers' content and cut off web access without any semblance of due process.

Even though Hillary Clinton was forced by Bernie Sanders' supporters to rescind her support for these measures, she initially backed the TPP, and her running mate Tim Kaine has since stated that both are "flexible" on trade issues; and Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe has corroborated that she will not abide by her promise if elected. Donald Trump, however, has consistently opposed both TPP and NAFTA and pledged to restore fair international trade standards if elected. The election will decide this crucial controversy, and with it the future of our declining cities; the safety of the food on our tables; our right to national sovereignty; the personal security promised us by the Fourth Amendment; and the economic liberties of the free market.

That's why it's imperative that we can't support a candidate that may have halfheartedly promised fair trade, but has repeatedly wavered on that vow and whose record distinctly demonstrates the duplicity of her assurance. In two days, we will decide our fiscal future for decades ahead - and we must have the courage to reject the deleterious provisions of the TPP and stand up for national self-determination.

That's why I, for one, am not ashamed to say that I'm putting my eggs in the "basket of deplorables" this year.

Say No to TPP: Brexit and US Trade Policy

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It's official. 51.9% of British citizens decided to leave the European Union in a landmark referendum, choosing national sovereignty and control of their own policies over their forty-three year bond with continental Europe. This decision was definitely influenced somewhat by the ongoing migrant crisis, but also stemmed from widespread frustration with the trend of globalization. Britain decided that the benefits of closer integration with foreign countries - the job creation and international harmony that free-trade deals were supposed to create, but that never materialized - were outweighed by the costs - the loss of many jobs, an influx of imported goods, and the partial loss of national independence.

Here in the United States, we are facing a similar decision on the future of our jobs as a vote on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership looms, but what we may not realize is that we as citizens have the same power Britons just exercised.

According to this document's preamble, it "promotes economic integration to liberalize trade and investment, bring economic growth and social benefits... reduce poverty and promote sustainable growth." Apparently, our government and the corporations it is speaking for here do not expect us to read further. Because if we do, we will notice that this, too, was likely generated in the same specious slippery spirit as all those other things that don't deceive us. We will refuse to be fooled. We will realize that this agreement does nothing to prevent the mass exodus of our American jobs; it merely bids them adieu as the gangplank goes up and they go puffing away. It does nothing to protect the foreign laboring class, give them decent hours or the right to improve their situation through collective bargaining; it merely gives the dignified speech at the cornerstone laying of another faraway sweatshop. It does nothing to hinder the commonplace crimes against our persons, the toxic air and corrupted foods we accept for lack of a choice; it merely sanctions the conspiracy of silence keeping us ignorant of what we're doing to ourselves. And it sets up a subtle satire of the justice system, allowing corporate lawyers to eviscerate our progressive statutes without ever setting foot in U.S. courts, while simultaneously subjecting regulators to the twists and turns of tangled, undeveloped foreign legal systems if they want to enforce the more liberal provisions.

They insist that all this will do us a service, provide a much-needed boost to our economy. But by doing away with the vilified Reign of Tariffs, they are only enabling foreign governments and corporations to encroach on our independence. But we can defeat this if we pull together to remind Congress that they ultimately answer to the people that trusted them to serve us - even if all we could contribute to their campaigns was our support.

We can continue to fight for our economy and our rights as consumers. We can Say No to TPP.

Say No to Financial Ruin

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bubble.jpgThe proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership is not only deleterious to our national health and safety, our labor laws, and our justice system: it could also hasten the disappearance of America's middle class.

For starters, the agreement heavily favors Wall Street and expressly bans financial transaction taxes. These are meant to stabilize the often volatile trade in stocks and securities by taxing money exchanged on the stock market and thereby discouraging improvident speculation. A seventeenth-century British innovation first brought over to this country by John Maynard Keynes in the wake of the Great Depression and implemented successfully in forty countries, this strategy has proven itself as a highly effective but not prohibitive way to reduce market crazes and the economic collapses they trigger. Now, even this mild measure is threatened. (Perhaps it might not be such a bad thing if Barack Obama followed in the footsteps of his infamous predecessor just once, to declare under these special circumstances: "I am now a Keynesian.")

Also, even if the Glass-Steagall Act is finally reinstated under a liberal administration, it would have almost no chance of surviving the ISDS. This renowned New Deal measure helped bring down the Money Trust by ordering that there must be some separation between banks and securities firms, before being repealed in 1999. This deregulation and the banks' subsequent spending spree was in large part responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown, but still Congress rejected reviving the law's provisions as part of Dodd-Frank. With the TPP in place, it would be impossible to take care of our citizens by restraining the unlawful power banks derive from our own money: as future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis memorably put it in his 1914 work Other People's Money, "The fetters that bind the people are forged of the people's own gold."

In short, the Trans-Pacific Partnership would deprive governmental authority of the right to ensure domestic prosperity or at least avoid a remake of the Recession - yet corporations preferring profits to our welfare and even their own have convinced a remarkable number of our elected officials to choose a vicious cycle of bubbles and bailouts over a stable, fair economy.

Say No to TPP: We Have Fed You All For A Thousand Years

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sab cat.pngThe infamous Trans-Pacific Partnership has been signed.

We at PlanetGreen feel that this song, written in 1908 by an "unknown proletarian" as a parody of a popular Kipling poem, properly marks the occasion.

We have fed you all for a thousand years
And you hail us still unfed,
Though there's never a dollar of all your wealth
But marks the worker's dead.
We have yielded our best to give you rest
And you lie on crimson wool.
Then if blood be the price of all your wealth,
Good God! We have paid it in full.

There is never a mine blown skyward now
But we're buried alive for you.
There's never a wreck drifts shoreward now
But we are its ghastly crew.
Go reckon our dead by the forges red
And the factories where we spin.
If blood be the price of your cursed wealth
Good God! We have paid it in.

We have fed you all for a thousand years--    
For that was our doom, you know,
From the days when you chained us in your fields
To the strike of a week ago.
You have taken our lives, and our babies and wives,
And we're told it's your legal share;
But if blood be the price of your lawful wealth
Good God! We have bought it fair.


P.S. Congress can still reject this disastrous deal. It is imperative that they do so.

Say No to Imported Poisons

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Fourscore and thirty years ago, the Pure Food and Drug Act passed Congress and the first thorough regulations of food production, sales and labeling went into effect. This law was, in many ways, a lone beacon of liberalism in an age characterized by "liberty of contract" and other manifestations of corporate anarchy. A New York statute providing for a twelve-hour work day had been struck down just the year before. Corrupt legislatures had been allowed to openly grant monopolies in recent memory. Bans on unionizing were commonplace conditions of employment. Yet even a nation so apparently unconcerned with the welfare of its citizens realized that humans do have the right to be reassured that they are not consuming toxins or contaminants along with their daily meals.

Now, after all this time, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is poised to strike down all the progress we've made on this front. According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the parties are merely agreeing "to cooperate to ensure that technical regulations and standards do not create unnecessary barriers to trade;" however, in reality, even the most basic requirements are now imperiled. Foreign exporters will have to state that their standards of purity and cleanliness are comparable to ours, but we will no longer have the authority to make them actually comply with our regulations. In addition, other provisions of the TPP weaken our country-of-origin legislation, rendering it practically impossible for consumers to find out what if any rules were followed in the making of a particular product.

For example, many of the eleven foreign states we are prepared to sign over our safety to rely on seafood exports as a crucial part of their economy. However, sea creatures are highly likely to ingest mercury and other runoff in both foreign and domestic waters, and fish from contaminated sources have been linked to birth defects, cognitive decline, cancer, and other serious and irreversible injuries. Under the TPP, alien companies would be allowed to import these fish without any significant restrictions or inspections, compelling U.S. regulators and consumers to take their word for it that they have followed procedures equivalent to our own.

Also, any standards the pact does not outright invalidate would still be subject to challenge as "illegal trade barriers," and taxpayers could be forced to hand over exorbitant damages to corporations which have no jurisdictional ties to the United States. Under NAFTA, for example, Canada was coerced into giving the Virginia-based Ethyl Corporation 13 million dollars in recompense and a statement that certain carcinogenic gasoline additives were not harmful after all. There is no reason to believe that our government will not be railroaded into these same forced confessions about hormones, pesticides, preservatives, and other substances currently banned or tightly regulated.

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership does not streamline safe and cooperative commerce; rather, it forces us to drink our glass down to the bottom and then reimburse corporate criminals for the cost of the poison they poured in it.

Say No to Labor Losses

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TPP world.pngIt's a well-established fact that neoliberal trade deals weaken labor safety standards, dispense with the right to unionize, evade and disregard minimum wage standards and exploit child labor.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership further demonstrates this idea.

NAFTA meant that we lost jobs to Canada and Mexico -- Canada to dodge paying U.S. taxes, Mexico to avoid anything close to decent wages. (This year, the minimum wage was raised to $4.30 (in U.S. dollars) per day; the average wage in the country is $5.06 per day).

In Vietnam, the minimum wage varies by region and can be less than four U.S. dollars a day. In 2012, Nike factories paid $0.27 an hour -- this has since been raised to $0.48 cents. With wages like these, customs barriers -- already low -- are no obstacle to outsourcing; the U.S. has trade deficits with Vietnam, Mexico, Malaysia, Canada and Japan already. (In fact, companies with Chinese factories keep re-outsourcing to Vietnam.) Clearly, we need to work on bringing these jobs back stateside, not sending more away.

In an attempt to deflect from the main issue, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has released a lot of gobbledygook on the subject. It contends that the TPP will promote the following goals:

  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining;
  • Elimination of forced labor;
  • Abolition of child labor and a prohibition on the worst forms of child labor; and
  • The elimination of employment discrimination.
Of course, there are some obvious issues with these specious claims.

The right to join a union -- implied in the first statement -- is highly unlikely to actually be protected. For example, according to Human Rights Watch, "Vietnam bans all independent political parties, labor unions, and human rights organizations. Authorities require official approval for public gatherings and refuse to grant permission for meetings, marches, or protests they deem politically or otherwise unacceptable." In this country, workers often have difficulty exercising their rights when the NLRB and court system is supposed to defend them -- will a panel of corporate lawyers (per the ISDS system) really do better? No, so there goes your "freedom of association and right to collective bargaining."

Second, "forced labor" is not defined. Does it mean blatant slavery, or could it refer to the necessity to work at a job that puts one's life, health and well-being at risk, for paltry wages and (in some, "lucky" cases) accommodations in a huge, crowded, dirty company dormitory? The workers whose deaths caused Apple to put up its famous suicide nets certainly didn't seem to be employed there by their own volition. Wage slavery can be almost as repressive as the unadulterated article, but it's hardly probable that our governments -- or the ISDS courts -- will actually work to abolish the system.

The third provision contradicts itself. How can you promise the "Abolition of child labor and a prohibition on the worst forms of child labor." If you're really abolishing all child labor, why would you need to specifically ban "the worst forms" of it? This is just a taste of the duplicity involved in this deal.

Finally, just exactly how does the Trade Representative define "the elimination of employment discrimination?" We don't have that here. When women make 77 cents for every dollar men are paid, that's employment discrimination. When U.S. jobs are outsourced overseas because American workers tried to form a union, that's employment discrimination. When companies like Smithfield and Holiday Inn preferentially hire illegal immigrants over American citizens -- then intimidate and selectively deport those who agitate for better working and living conditions -- that's employment discrimination on a lot of levels. Companies are getting away with all of this right here in the U.S.A. -- why in the world would we expect America-as-global-policeman to be better at controlling even more flagrant abuses worldwide?

Uzbek Cotton.pngSupposedly, the U.S. will implement "consistency plans" with some of the other TPP countries (notably, not with Mexico) to enforce compliance. This begs the question -- compliance with what? The Atlantic states that "The minimum wage" required by the deal "could be set at a penny an hour--which wouldn't do much to help workers." The Office of the Trade Representative promises to "Establish rules that wil ensure that TPP countries do not waive or derogate from fundamental labor laws in a manner that affects trade or investment" -- because having sanctions instated wouldn't be fun for fat cat stockholders. But we turn blind eyes on some of the most flagrant labor violations occurring today -- for example, no government has applied sanctions to Uzbekistan over their use of child slave labor to harvest cotton. While companies from Walmart to Fruit of the Loom to IKEA to Tesco have banned the use of Uzbek cotton in products they sell, the United States has refused to do anything, since much of Uzbekistan has functioned as a giant military base during our war in Afghanistan. When "national security" -- or profit margins -- enter the picture, labor is ignored.

In conclusion, the United States needs to implement a "consistency plan" with itself, not give lip-service to labor while exploiting all the workers of the world.

Say No To Kangaroo Courts

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Kangaroo.jpgAs I mentioned in my last installment of this series, TPP would eviscerate this country's already weak control over product safety. However, one argument in favor of weakening jurisdiction rules and long-arm statutes is that such an extensive reach would expose our businesses and government agencies to lengthy and costly lawsuits against them by foreign entities.

Enter the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system.

This is a binding arbitration agreement that allows corporations to challenge U.S. regulations without ever even submitting to the procedures and precedents of U.S. courts. Instead of impartial judges, they go up before a panel which, more often than not, would be made up of highly-paid lawyers from firms specializing in defending corporations and challenging government ordinances. Yet these judges would not be forbidden from practicing law between times, and in some cases representing the very parties they have just passed a judgment on. Instead of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or any comparable code, they would operate on a perplexing hybrid of multinational standards.

All the gains this country has made since the Roosevelt administration stand to be reversed. Any increases in the minimum wage, and possibly even our existing wages and hours laws, could be thrown over. What's left of our clean air regulations once our courts are through with them could be dismantled even further. Food safety measures dating back to 1906 are once again in danger of being arbitrarily struck down. Worst of all, though, because this tribunal's jurisdiction is reserved for cases brought by "international investors," U.S. companies, labor unions, and government agencies would still have to enforce the more liberal terms of the agreement in foreign legal systems, which are often inferior in their procedural safeguards and common law decisions.

It is hard for me to believe that we have spent so many decades and centuries attempting to improve our existing justice system and insure the fairness of every detail only to abandon it at the behest of outlaw corporations and their smooth-talking stooges. Yet, if Congress does approve the TPP, it will be rejecting our values of substantive justice at enormous cost to American consumers and workers.

Say No to Signing a Sellout

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Founding Fathers.pngA date has been set for the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It's scheduled for February 4th, in New Zealand. Representatives from all twelve countries involved -- the United States, Canada,  Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia -- are expected to attend.

Amidst much fanfare, the United States government -- along with the administrations of eleven other countries -- will sign a document surrendering our liberty, safety, economy, and national sovereignty to a handful of multinational corporations. This treaty will make it even easier for big businesses to dismiss our laws, mistreat our workers, poison our food, outsource our jobs, wreck our environment and dodge our taxes. It will enable them to dismiss our government, from the Supreme Court to Congress, by declaring our rules and regulations "barriers to trade." It will also create instability, increase poverty, and ruin lives worldwide.

Luckily, this will not be the final test the TPP must pass. Congress has a chance to stop it, and many prominent politicians don't support the deal. All three Democratic candidates for president have come out against it, as have Congressional luminaries including Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. On the other side of the aisle, even some Republican candidates -- including the unlikely duo of Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina -- have condemned it. Others, while endorsing so-called "free trade," deplore the shady manner in which it was negotiated. Republicans in Congress are not entirely on board, either; Senator Orrin Hatch, the oldest member of the Senate, has objected to some of the pact's provisions, while some Tea Party members oppose it. Even House Speaker Paul Ryan faces pressure from Wisconsin's dairy industry to disapprove the deal, and senators like Mitch McConnell and Thom Tillis, conservatives from tobacco-producing states, object to the bill on the basis that tobacco is not included as an ISDS-approved industry (meaning it can't bypass our court system to obtain a favorable settlement).

Just 16% of Americans approve of how our elected officials are running the country. Only 30% favor free trade even in theory, while 63% say that trade restrictions are necessary (and 84 percent prioritize "protecting jobs" over gaining access to more products). Our elected officials need to listen to us. In fact, Congress should be delighted at this opportunity to defend our interests -- and, thereby, increase its own favorability...

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Say No to Jurisdictional Limbo

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The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal would authorize outsourcing to Asia on an unprecedented scale. Widespread job loss and tax evasion would obviously result - however, an unforeseen consequence might also be the loss of U.S. jurisdiction over the wrongdoing of foreign corporations.

This side effect of international commerce is far from coincidental. Rather, for both the alien manufacturers contracting to supply goods to this country and the domestic distributors of the imports, it has long been the perfect arrangement to insure that neither has to pay the cost of any negligence that may have occurred in the construction of the product.

The problem began, on its current scale, in 1987, with the Supreme Court's decision in Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court of California, 480 U.S. 102 (1987). This case involved a motorcycle accident attributable to defects in the vehicle's rear tire, which injured Gary Zurcher and killed his wife Ruth. The maker of the tire tube, Asahi, did not even bother to dispute the facts in a products liability suit brought the next year. Rather, it claimed that California courts could not exercise jurisdiction over it because its base of business was Taiwan and it had no contacts with California. Shockingly, the Court agreed with this claim, reversing the lower courts even over the objection of local businesses who felt that their decision to remain in this country had gone unrewarded.

If the facts of this case inspire a strange sense of deja vu, that might be because similar injustices continue to occur on an everyday basis throughout this country. Currently, the Japanese-based company Takata is attempting to escape liability for its lethal airbags under similar logic. In our recent memory, airplane owners and operators have shirked responsibility for preventable crashes, fabricators of foodstuffs, cosmetics, and medicines have marketed toxins with impunity, and factories selling their wares here have pointedly refused to comply with the most basic of our regulations. Far from the safeguard of "fair play and substantial justice" the Asahi decision claimed itself to be, it has caused our international economy to deteriorate into a lawless, deceitful exchange of tainted or dangerous goods.

However, we are far from helpless in the face of this judicial anarchy. Many states have adopted comprehensive "long-arm" statutes which locally overrule Asahi and similar decisions, restoring some sense of accountability to their commercial law. Massachusetts extends its reach to any company or individual who "derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered, in this commonwealth." New York takes it even further, not even requiring that the "substantial revenue" come from within the state as long as it originates from "interstate or international commerce" of any sort. The U.S. law, though, is not nearly so comprehensive, largely restricting federal jurisdiction to situations either of waiver or "in which the action is based upon a commercial activity carried on in the United States by the foreign state; or upon an act performed in the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere." 28 U.S.C. §1605. This will offer almost no protection against defects in the millions of imports that will flood our market if the TPP indeed goes into effect.

I recall that Justice Cardozo once said that "it is possible to use almost anything in a way that will make it dangerous if defective" - and clearly such faulty global policy will indeed be highly hazardous. Therefore, instead of opening the door even further to a practice already costing millions in unpaid damages and an inestimable amount of distress, injury and grief, maybe our government should focus on repairing the laws already in place.

Say No To TPP

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It's another average American evening, and there I am again, wandering the aisles of German-based grocery store Aldi. I begin to examine a package of bright red tomatoes, and intrigued by their unseasonable freshness, I begin to read the label. The vegetables, I discover, were grown in Mexico -- but distributed by a company headquartered in Ontario. Somewhat alarmed by this corporation's deliberate avoidance of the USA, I start examining other products around the store and the town, and discover the omnipresence of foreign goods. Walmart candy: the cherry balls were made in Canada and the peppermints originated south of the border. Canned fruit: the consumer is offered the comforting choice between Chinese and Mexican regulators. Apple juice: Argentina, China, and Turkey make their appearance frequently, but it seems unlikely Johnny Appleseed could find a buyer anytime soon. Silverware: It takes thirty minutes of reading the small print on the backs of tablespoons even to find tableware from Vietnam, and even longer to debate whether that's any safer than China or not. Tinfoil: "Made in America," but the generic brand admits using metal from Russia and the Reynolds Wrap package conveniently doesn't mention it. Even merchandise proudly sporting miniature American flags and other patriotic decorations is more often than not crafted from "imported materials."

Cheap, imported goods are commonplace and unavoidable, thanks to two factors -- international agreements such as NAFTA , which legalized and effectively sanctioned outsourcing, and common law decisions such as Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102 (1987), which placed foreign companies completely out of the reach of US courts and regulators. Yet it still does not appear the U.S. government has learned its lesson.

Hence the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

According to its official website, the TPP "levels the playing field for American workers and American businesses, leading to more Made-in-America exports and more higher-paying American jobs here at home." But in reality, it opens the door to even more state-sanctioned outsourcing while providing no protections for sweatshop workers or enforceable environmental requirements. Therefore, we at PlanetGreen.org take a firm stand against it, and, in our "Say No to TPP" series," will explore the terms of the agreement not as they are conveniently summarized by the government but as they will affect our everyday lives and our collective strength and growth as a nation.

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