With the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) a step closer to becoming reality, some advocacy groups say the trade deal could end up hurting some Illinois residents' jobs and health.
Twelve countries in all, including the United States, agreed Monday on what's being called the largest regional trade deal in history.
Carson Starkey, executive director of the Illinois Fair Trade Campaign, says the deal was negotiated behind closed doors and will mostly benefit large corporations at the expense of American workers.
"It's an incentive to force working people to fight each other for the scraps on a table," he says. "There's nothing to stop Caterpillar or GM or any other company based in Illinois from packing up and moving to Vietnam, if they're going to get a better deal."
Starkey, along with organizations like Doctors Without Borders, also warns that the TPP could drive up the cost of what are already some of the world's most expensive drugs - including some vaccines and life-saving cancer treatments.
Jan Rodolfo, Midwest director of National Nurses United, says while there's still time for parts of the agreement to change, as it stands now the people who rely on those drugs are not being protected.
"We shouldn't be providing any additional protections to the pharmaceutical industry, whether here or elsewhere," she says. "As drugs are developed, they should be distributed as low cost, and as broadly as possible, to those that need treatment."
Supporters of the deal claim the TPP will help keep the U.S. economy competitive with international trade. But Rodolfo says some early provisions in the deal could put public health in Illinois at risk, because they would allow companies to challenge the state's environmental protections.
"You could see something like that happening in Illinois," she says. "That we would democratically regulate something to protect public health and then have a corporation actually challenge our right to do that."
The final details of the TPP won't be released for another month or so, and it still faces a vote by each country's government, including the U.S. Congress.