Over outcry from women’s groups, environmentalists, health advocates, workers and LGBT organizations, the U.S Senate passed so-called “Fast Track” trade authority today, which will speed the way to corporate giveaways like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—hurting jobs, the environment and human rights.
Fast Track will exclude Congress from a meaningful role in crafting trade agreements like the TPP. Agreements similar to the massive TPP, which includes 40 percent of the world’s economy and some of the world’s lowest-wage countries, have had a specifically negative impact on working women. NAFTA cost the U.S 1 million jobs, and two-thirds of Americans who received government assistance after losing their jobs due to NAFTA were women.
NAFTA also displaced over 1 million of Mexico’s rural poor, creating the circumstances for Mexico’s drug war and making a major contribution to the crisis of gendered violence in Mexico.
The TPP could have a major impact on women’s access to prescription drugs. Doctors Without Borders has warned that “the TPP agreement is on track to become the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicine in developing countries.” Under the TPP, pharmaceutical companies would have more power to keep generic versions of key drugs off the market. Competition from generic producers of antiretroviral medicines played a critical role in reducing the price of these medicines in poor countries, lowering costs by approximately 99 percent and helping nearly 12 million people obtain HIV/AIDS treatment.
Additionally, as Feminist Majority Foundation President (and publisher of Ms.) Eleanor Smeal said, “Any deal that forces women and human rights to take a backseat to profit and trade should be a non-starter.” Under TPP, member nations would receive special trade privileges that not even democracies like the U.K receive. The U.S would be forbidden from using the kind of sanctions and pressure used to stop repression in South Africa to respond to TPP-member countries, such as Brunei, that commit human rights violations.
Brunei recently adopted an outrageous new penal code that is being implemented in phases. It calls for fines and imprisonment for women who become pregnant outside marriage, for adultery and for so-called “indecent behavior.” It also threatens men and women who “pose as” someone of the opposite sex with similar punishment. Next year, the second phase of the penal code, which includes stoning to death as punishment for extramarital sex as well as for men who engage in sex with other men, will go into effect.