A Site for Scholarly Commentary, Debate and Media Resources for the 2016 Election

Student Voices

The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the anti-corporate constituency

While it’s only been a little over a month since the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was reached, the deal has quickly left the limelight. Instead of spring-boarding discussion on the dynamics of free trade, the geopolitics of Asia, the debate over global access to medicines or the corporate influence on intellectual property rights, the TPP served other purposes.

It stoked Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ anti-establishment populist fire. It confounded Republicans over how to handle another seemingly conservative accord delivered by the leftist president. It gave ammo to those decrying Hillary Clinton a flip-flopper.

As a student in bioethics and science policy, I’ve spent much time, in and out of class, investigating the deal. I’m particularly concerned with access to medicines and pharmaceutical intellectual property law as well as other aspects that I find critical to the future of the world economy and geopolitics.

As I look at the facts, I’m left with one question: Why won’t any candidate take the TPP seriously? Simple answer: There are two primary camps of sentiment about the TPP — those who support or oppose it because it is pro-corporate and pro-free trade, and those who support or oppose it because it is associated with Obama.

At the top of the anti-corporate camp lies Sanders, who has vehemently attacked the trade deal from the start; it fits nicely into his anti-billionaire anti-Wall Street platform. His vision is short-sided, though, as he fails to consider the benefits that stringent intellectual property laws carry with them, such as innovations in medicine and agriculture. Politically speaking, his stance is a goldmine for inciting support.

Clinton advocated on behalf of the plan years ago as Secretary of State, but has since retracted her support over fears of “currency manipulation” and “not hitting the high bar set for America.” She stands on treacherous grounds. She must appeal to the anti-corporate mass, since these are the votes she’s losing to Sanders, but has now turned her back on Obama and whatever hold he has left on the Democratic Party.

Trump is delivering a one-two punch at Obama and at the establishment. He claims that other countries will “dupe us” and steal our jobs, relying on the nationalism and xenophobia of most of his supporters. This is probably just political strategy and not some grand insight into the inner workings of a secret deal.

The lower-polling mainstream Republicans are at a loss. While they vigorously support free trade, especially when the corporations writing the Super-PAC checks are involved, they have a very difficult time co-signing anything with the Obama trademark. Attacking him remains agenda item Number One.

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and John Kasich have all suggested support for the deal, appealing to the image of moderation, which very well could be why they’re polling highest among the mainstream. These guys have the right idea, both superficially and realistically.

Much like the Iran deal, the TPP is not perfect, but it is significantly better than no deal at all. The TPP is undeniably a resounding victory for both U.S. corporations and the consumer. It’s important geopolitically as the focus of the global markets shift to Asia. We need to pay attention to it and discuss it thoroughly; not exploit it politically, as it is going to shape our future economically, technologically, agriculturally, cybernetically and medically.