Labor, environmental and other fair-trade activists are getting their first look at the Tran-Pacific Partnership, released to the public overnight. Their initial reaction?
It’s worse than expected.
“It’s absolutely not a progressive trade deal,” Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition director Kaela Berg said after an early analysis of the text.
“It’s clear that TPP will perpetuate offshoring of our jobs and stagnation of our wages. There aren’t strong, enforceable labor and environmental standards, which have been a constant worry since NAFTA.”
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The public release of the TPP, a 12-nation trade agreement covering about 40 percent of the global economy, starts the clock on a 90-day review period, after which Congress may approve or reject – but not amend – the pact.
Berg said the Fair Trade Coalition, which unites family-farm, environmental and labor groups, would use the review period to educate the public about what’s at stake in the TPP – and to lobby Minnesota’s Congressional delegation to vote “no.”
All seven DFLers in Congress voted against so-called “fast track” authorization, which positioned TPP for a simple up-or-down vote, over the summer, and Berg was cautiously optimistic they would vote to reject TPP as well. Republican Reps. Tom Emmer and Erik Paulsen are “poster boys for corporate free-trade,” she added, and likely to vote “yes.”
“All the officials are going to want to look at the text and see what’s in there,” Berg said.
Many union officials were busy doing the same today, leading to a chorus of warnings about the TPP’s impact on jobs, wages, public health and more.
“This much is clear,” said Rick Ryan of the Minnesota State Council of Machinists after a first read through the TPP. “The rich get richer as we race to the bottom.”
Citizens Trade Campaign, a fair-trade advocacy group, said the TPP would force U.S. workers to compete with workers abroad who, in some member countries, earn less than $1 per hour. It also would ban laws that encourage government agencies to buy American-made or locally made products.
“TPP will do nothing to promote manufacturing jobs here in the U.S.” Bob Ryan, a Minnesota-based representative of the United Steelworkers, said. “In fact, it will promote more job loss through outsourcing to low wage countries.”
Nurses warned of a provision in the TPP that protects multinational pharmaceutical companies by delaying the introduction of generic drugs into the market, making health care more expensive and life-saving medicines harder to access. In fact, the TPP would roll back some of the protections for access to medicine included in trade agreements negotiated during the George W. Bush administration.
National Nurses United President RoseAnn DeMoro likened the provisions to “gifts to the billionaire drug companies,” and called the TPP “a cruel and disgraceful threat to the lives of millions of people.”
The TPP also threatens U.S. sovereignty, critics said. It would grant corporations new powers to challenge U.S. laws, regulations and court decisions in an extrajudicial tribunal known as the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) court.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, the highest-ranking labor leader in the U.S., pledged unions would “join with our allies to defeat the TPP.”
“From what we have already seen, it is clear that the threats of this expansive new agreement outweigh its benefits – for good jobs, for democracy, for affordable medicines, for consumer safety, and for the environment,” Trumka said.