Opponents Line Up Against Trans-Pacific Partnership

Nov. 14, 2013
Congressional and business leaders say the Obama Administration is fast tracking it without public scrutiny.

While Singapore’s finance minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam publicly applauded the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership between Asian countries and the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico as an accord that would boost trade, investment and job creation in all countries involved, this week 151 Democratic members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to President Obama laying out their concerns about the TPP. These include a lack of consultation during TPP negotiations and the fast-tracking of such a wide-ranging agreement.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) supported this uprising against the notion of bringing the agreement before the Congress for an up-or-down vote without opportunities for amendment. The CWA believes the agreement as it stands would be detrimental to manufacturing and service sector jobs, workers’ rights, wages, environmental regulation, food safety, health care, consumer protections and government procurement policies. These concerns are tied to a lack of transparency throughout the accord’s negotiation process.

“Some 600 corporate advisors have access to the secret draft texts, but the public, many members of Congress, journalists, unions, environmental and public health groups and others have been excluded,” The CWA said in its statement. 

“Our 20 years of experience in trade deals, going back to North American Free Trade Agreement, has proven that  we lose far more jobs than we gain, and that our pay and benefits are pushed down with global competition as the excuse,” added CWA President Larry Cohen. “We must pursue economic and trade policies that are best for American workers – not multinational corporations.”

In their letter to the president, House Democrats vowed to oppose fast track.

“Twentieth Century ‘Fast Track’ is simply not appropriate for 21st Century agreements and must be replaced,” the letter said. “The United States cannot afford another trade agreement that replicates the mistakes of the past. We can and must do better.”

Meanwhile, in advance of the TPP Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, November 19-24, WikiLeaks released negotiated draft text for the TPP’s Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. It includes subsections relating to patents (who may produce goods or drugs), copyright (who may transmit information), trademarks (who may describe information or goods as authentic) and industrial design.

The TPP’s opponents claim that only three individuals in each TPP nation have access to the full text of the agreement, while 600 “trade advisers,” which they deem as lobbyists guarding the interests of large U.S. corporations such as Chevron, Halliburton, Monsanto and Walmart, have been granted access to crucial sections of the treaty text.

Opponents also worry that the Obama administration is preparing to fast-track the TPP treaty to keep Congress from discussing or amending any parts of the treaty. Numerous TPP heads of state and senior government figures, including President Obama, have declared their intention to sign and ratify the TPP before the end of 2013.

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