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.
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.
Northwest Progressive Institute
Founder and executive director
Northwest Progressive Institute