TPP may be “literally the ‘gold standard’ for consumer, labor, and environmental protections” but in this case that means past trade deals were trash on these issues, not that TPP is any good. You write, “ Ignoring the fact that the TPP included environmental standards, labor protections, mandated a minimum wage, and banned child labor, activists’ interpretation of ISDS courts is problematic.”
Yes, it is problematic but we never ignored the standards. The problem is that the standards are basically meaningless phrases that lack either substance or meaningful enforcement mechanisms.
Mandating a minimum wage (to take just one example) does not mean a whole lot because a nation can set the wage at $0.01 an hour. Sure, that’s better than Alabama’s state minimum wage (which doesn’t exist), but again, it doesn’t mean much. As The Atlantic noted, “The TPP’s Labour chapter reiterates that all members should adopt and maintain the labor rights of the ILO. It also calls for all participants to end child labor and forced labor, and to allow workers to form unions and collectively bargain. It requires a minimum-wage, and safety and health standards meant to prevent common abuses like overcrowding, fire hazards, and overwork. But the document does not specify how any of those measures should work. And that’s a big shortcoming, according to John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director with Human Rights Watch. The minimum wage, for example, could be set at a penny an hour — which wouldn’t do much to help workers.”
Another example. You write, “Heck, with the TPP’s environmental and labor standards, it’s likely that ISDS would have been used as a way to protect worker’s rights. If Company A noticed Company B hiring children, it could bring an ISDS dispute against the state to pay damages, encouraging the state to ratchet up enforcement.”
Assuming the state in question didn’t win the dispute as it did in the two examples you cite, Philip Morris v. Uruguay and Churchill Mining v. Indonesia. Furthermore, states might decide to pay or risk fines as part of the cost of doing business and continue using child labor.
Unions on both sides of the Pacific opposed TPP because the enforcement mechanisms were weak to non-existent and the commitments to standards were mostly platitudes and not specifics. And given that the U.S. has never sued Mexico over violating minimum wage standards, occupational health and safety standards, or child labor as it has the right to do under NAFTA’s supplemental labor pact NAACL, there’s no reason to think the U.S. government would actually try to enforce these provisions you keep talking up.