President Obama is desperate to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, marshalling most Republicans and some Democrats last month to narrowly push through a pact that was earlier defeated in the House.
Pope Francis is eager to save the earth, “our common home” from unbridled economic activity that the TPP would sanction and bless. On June 18, as the House prepared to vote again on fast track authority that would move the TPP closer to approval, Pope Francis issued his long awaited teaching on climate change.
The two events and the underlying beliefs they embrace reveal the radically different visions of the two world leaders.
Will we prioritize people and the planet first – or corporate profits?
Pope Francis longs for an economy that puts people and planet first; the president’s trade treaty prioritizes corporate profits over jobs, other human needs, and environmental protection.
The Pope is clear that always prioritizing corporate interests over the public good has resulted in dire threats to our common home.
In contrast, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in which Obama has invested substantial political capital, puts corporations squarely in the driver seat. If governments enact laws to protect the environment or preserve workers’ rights, corporations can sue if they feel their right to earn profits has been abridged or impeded.
Corporations have already filed suits against sovereign nations more than 500 times and won about a third of those cases. They have forced nations to overturn laws limiting dangerous activities like mining or fracking, protecting citizens by banning unsafe products, and providing greater safeguards through product labeling.
The modified version of the TPP passed in late June was stripped of vital assistance to protect and provide for workers whose jobs will be sent offshore if the treaty comes into force. The president and his pals in Congress are going to great lengths to ensure that corporate interests continue to write the rules that determine our economic lives.