The purpose of American trade policy should be to help American businesses thrive and create good jobs at home. It should not be a giant giveaway to big corporations that can make more money by sending jobs overseas and avoiding taxes while we are left to foot the bill.
The Chamber of Commerce and the other big business lobby associations in Washington DC like to pretend that all American businesses want more trade agreements like NAFTA, the Korean deal, and the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). I want the Congress and the President to know that real small businesses in this country are skeptical about the benefits of these trade pacts.
We have to get out of the business of using trade deals to export jobs and import cheap, made-in-a-sweatshop products and into the business of investing in infrastructure and people. This is what will help entrepreneurs and economic growth—both inside and outside the U.S. When trade deals contain rules that skew benefits toward the global corporations and their shareholders, I have fewer customers, and my customers have less money to spend.
Unfortunately, it looks like sections of the TPP could restrict competition by favoring big multinational companies at the expense of the rest of us. One example: the leaked TPP text indicates that foreign drug companies may get the right to challenge the way Medicare and Medicaid choose which drugs to cover and the prices they pay. If this leads to skyrocketing drug costs for Medicaid, Florida lawmakers may be able to fuel their argument against expanding Medicaid through the Affordable Healthcare Act. In addition to putting lives at risk by denying federal funding to expand coverage to the poorest Floridians this would, once again, leave small business owners and tax payers footing the bill for providing emergency care to the over 1 million Floridians stuck in the coverage gap.
The agreement would also create secret trade tribunals that foreign drug makers can use to sue the U.S. over Medicaid drug pricing decisions. Foreign drug companies could also use these tribunals to try to reverse the progress the President has made to lower the costs of prescription drugs for seniors under Medicare Part D. This would force American taxpayers to subsidize increased profits for big foreign drug companies.
Parts of the TPP are not only immoral; they prevent long-term, sustainable economic growth. That hurts small American businesses like mine because it robs us of customers. The only way an agreement this destructive could get through Congress is by authorizing Fast Track authority. Fast track is designed to pave the road for new trade deals like the TPP by forcing Congress to relinquish their constitutional authority to review and amend a trade deal. That’s dangerous because it removes any possibility of improving bad sections of a trade deal.
Fast Track for TPP will force Congress to make a take-it-or-leave-it decision on a 29 chapter, 1,000 page agreement that was negotiated in secret. It’s more important to do trade deals right than fast.
Average citizens and small businesses can have leverage over the outcomes of trade deals—but only until Fast Track is passed. If we want to stop the dangerous outcomes of the TPP, we have to stop Fast Track.
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Andrew Lytle is the owner of Receptor Sound & Lighting in Dunedin, FL.