Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

CCAO Resource: Catholic Social Teaching and the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement

October 13, 2014




People gather at the U.S.-Mexico Border in El Paso, TX, for the annual Bishops’ Border Mass

People are more important than things and the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of every person. Every person has the right to a full life and institutions should ensure that human rights and affordable access to services necessary for survival is guaranteed. Unfortunately, most trade agreements favor multi- national corporations more than the general population.

Columban missionaries show hospitality to migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border through our border ministries and witness how poorly trade agreements have served people in need. Columbans on the border have seen an increase in migration from Mexico to the United States post NAFTA, especially from southern Mexico. They also work with women who have lost their manufacturing jobs at Lee and Wrangler Jeans manufacturing plants in El Paso after NAFTA went into force.

The Columban Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office in Chile has found that while the macroeconomic indicators for Chile continue to strengthen, these benefits are not seen on the community level and the gap between the rich and poor is increasing. The Central Bank also found a decrease in manufacturing jobs by 20% from 2004 – 2010.

Columban missionaries in Korea as well as on the border, in Mexico and Central American, observe that farmers have lost the only income they have ever known. Oftentimes, funds are insufficient to transition farmers to other trades. This leaves many communities even further impoverished


Mass is celebrated at a village in the Philippines.

Mass is celebrated at a village in the Philippines.

God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations.”
– Genesis 9:12

Past trade agreements have force sovereign countries to weaken environmental laws or allowed U.S. corporations to operate with weaker standards then they need to meet at home. Investor-State agreements such as chapter 11 included in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) give corporations the legal right to exploit minerals, gas, and oil, with no input from local communities who will be most affected. Rather when governments and communities have stood up to companies demanding that they not exploit resources or clean up resulting pollution, the companies can sue governments for wages lost, usually at a hefty sum. The most recent high profile case for the investor-state provisions involves the Doe Run Company’s lead smeltering plant in Peru that left widespread lead poisoning among children. The company sued the government when the government ordered it to clean up the contamination.

The leaked TPP investment chapters suggest that the investor-state provisions will be expanded and leave open the potential for an unprecedented number of lawsuits. These suits are held outside of the traditional judicial system with little to no transparency. In the last 13 years, a proliferation of these extra-judicial suits the investor-state caseload of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes has leapt 460%. Columbans from New Zealand to Chile are particularly concerned with this provision.

Free trade policies in Mexico Central America, Korea, Chile, and other countries have facilitated the introduction or the growth of the Genetically Engineered crops. The Colombians firmly believe that GE crops violate life itself and what God made “good.” (Genesis 1:31). It also further harms God’s Creation through the loss of crop diversity and increased use of pesticides, even in the seed itself. Additionally, the introduction of GE corn has destroyed the spiritual, cultural, and symbolic relationships that traditional people in Central America and Mexico have had with corn. We also recognize that climate change is a real and growing concern. An increase in extractive industries and the movement of goods without investing immensely in alternative energy sources that are in harmony with God’s Creation will further contribute to the greatest environmental challenges of our time. Trade agreements must be negotiated with particular concern to environmental and social responsibility in the spirit of cooperation among countries.


People marching in Times Square at the People’s Climate March.

Columbans join thousands at the People’s Climate March in NYC.

People have the right and duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the rights of the poor and the vulnerable, including indigenous communities and communities of color.

Investor-state provisions, as currently written, do not allow for community participation in investment decisions that affect local communities. This is a violation of their human rights and is unacceptable.

Furthermore, the very process under which the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been negotiated has left civil society, legislators, and other important stakeholders out of the process. The chapters in the TPP should be shared with the public and greater public participation should be incorporated into the process.

Faith in Action: Ask Congress to Implement Protections for God’s Creation