Stop Fast Track
Protesters in Seattle urge Congress to reject any legislation to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Photo: Rick Barry of Broken Shade Photo, reproduced under a Creative Commons license

Edi­tor’s Note: The fol­low­ing mes­sage regard­ing the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship is being sent today to our region’s Unit­ed States Sen­a­tors and Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, exclud­ing Ron Wyden and Dave Reichert, who are on record in sup­port of leg­is­la­tion to give Pres­i­dent Oba­ma the author­i­ty to nego­ti­ate a final incar­na­tion of the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship that could­n’t be amend­ed by Con­gress. We are pub­lish­ing our mes­sage to them here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate as an open letter.

Dear Sen­a­tors and Representatives:

The North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute (NPI) sup­ports good jobs, fair trade, and the right of the Amer­i­can peo­ple to make their own laws. The pro­posed Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship (TPP), based on what lit­tle has leaked from the secre­tive nego­ti­a­tion process, threat­ens to under­mine all of those values.

On top of this, the White House is demand­ing author­i­ty that would unac­cept­ably lim­it your abil­i­ty as a mem­ber of Con­gress to prop­er­ly assess, improve, and make an informed deci­sion on the TPP. A bill to grant this author­i­ty is on the verge of being intro­duced in the House and Sen­ate fol­low­ing recent dis­cus­sions by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Paul Ryan and Sen­a­tors Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden.

In a recent opin­ion piece, Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren laid out some of the main prob­lems with the TPP. It would:

  • Erode impor­tant safe­guards designed to pre­vent future finan­cial crises
  • Allow com­pa­nies to use secret trade tri­bunals to chal­lenge and over­ride U.S. laws, includ­ing labor and envi­ron­men­tal protections
  • Pre­vent the U.S. from enact­ing new lim­its on tox­ic finan­cial prod­ucts, or from tax­ing inter­na­tion­al finan­cial transactions
  • Under­mine the mid­dle class by pro­mot­ing the off­shoring of good jobs

Sen­a­tor War­ren has also drawn atten­tion to a par­tic­u­lar pro­vi­sion whose text has recent­ly leaked, refer­ring to the Investor-State Dis­pute Set­tle­ment (ISDS) process. ISDS allows multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions to chal­lenge laws passed by our gov­ern­ment — things like envi­ron­men­tal or safe­ty reg­u­la­tions — to poten­tial­ly win mil­lions of dol­lars in “dam­ages” that would have to be paid by Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers. And they could do all this with­out ever hav­ing to go to court in the Unit­ed States.

Large cor­po­ra­tions have already used ISDS pro­vi­sions in oth­er trade deals to attack reg­u­la­tions and laws designed to pro­tect the mid­dle class. They sued Egypt for rais­ing the min­i­mum wage, they sued Ger­many for elim­i­nat­ing nuclear pow­er to keep its cit­i­zens safe, and right now Phillip Mor­ris is suing Aus­tralia for imple­ment­ing tobac­co reg­u­la­tions designed to cut smok­ing rates and pro­tect children.

“The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled,” wrote Sen­a­tor War­ren in a Feb­ru­ary guest col­umn for The Wash­ing­ton Post. “Agree­ing to ISDS in this enor­mous new treaty would tilt the play­ing field in the Unit­ed States fur­ther in favor of big multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions. Worse, it would under­mine U.S. sovereignty.”

We agree with her. In fact, so does the gov­ern­ment of Aus­tralia, which has also raised seri­ous objec­tions to ISDS and has so far insist­ed that it be exclud­ed from the process in the final TPP language.

There are larg­er issues with the TPP than just the pos­si­ble loss of sov­er­eign­ty. The trade deficit has soared in recent decades.

For exam­ple, the U.S. deficit with Japan reached near­ly $80 bil­lion in 2013. It is esti­mat­ed that the trade deficit with Japan alone result­ed in 896,600 jobs elim­i­nat­ed in the nation across near­ly all con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts.

The recent trade deal with South Korea, which was promised to cre­ate at least 70,000 jobs, has instead cost jobs in the Unit­ed States — pos­si­bly in the neigh­bor­hood of 85,000 — and led to a larg­er trade deficit with South Korea.

Esti­mates of the cost in jobs from NAFTA runs into the mil­lions.

The pro­gres­sive move­ment in the North­west has unit­ed in oppo­si­tion to Fast Track author­i­ty, in order to allow Con­gress to exer­cise its full range of pow­ers to address prob­lems in the TPP. This coali­tion is an unprece­dent­ed alliance that includes the Sier­ra Club, the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Machin­ists, the NAACP, the Pres­by­ter­ian Church, farm­ers, and many others.

NPI is deeply con­cerned by the TPP. We urge you to oppose any pro­posed bill that would give fast track author­i­ty to the White House and lim­it Con­gress’ abil­i­ty to review, debate, and pro­pose amend­ments to the final text.

Final­ly, we ask you to com­mit to insist­ing that fair­ness be the foun­da­tion of all future trade deals. Any agree­ment we rat­i­fy should include rig­or­ous labor and envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions that allow for good jobs to be cre­at­ed in the Pacif­ic North­west. We sim­ply can’t afford a new trade scheme that hurts low and mid­dle income fam­i­lies and destroys our remain­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing base.


Robert Cruick­shank
North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute
Andrew Vil­leneuve
Founder and exec­u­tive director
North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute

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