NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

NPI to region’s congressional delegation: Stand strong against fast-track for TPP

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.

Sin­cere­ly,

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

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