United States Trade Representative Michael Froman signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership today in New Zealand, formally ending negotiations on the trade deal. The Obama Administration can now submit the agreement to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for approval.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a sweeping trade agreement among 12 countries that will impact a startling 40 percent of the world’s economy. It addresses a broad range of issues, including trade in goods and services, food safety, regulation of intellectual property and foreign investments, Internet access, as well as labor and environmental regulations.
Activists, including the Feminist Majority, and have heavily criticized the TPP, which was negotiated in near-secrecy, on a number of issues, including the likelihood that the agreement will offshore US jobs and depress US wages. The agreement also threatens US environmental regulations and access to low-cost generic drugs, while creating unaccountable private international tribunals where corporations can challenge US policies and regulations.
In June – despite opposition from over 2,000 organizations representing labor, environmental, farming, civil rights, digital rights, human rights, public health, faith, student, consumer, and other concerns – Congress granted President Obama trade promotion authority, better known as “Fast Track.” This authority allows Obama to present the TPP for an up-or-down vote in Congress, at any time, prohibiting amendments or filibusters. “Fast Track” mandates that once the President submits the deal to Congress, the House and Senate must vote on it within 90 days. Fast Track also limits debate to 20 hours.
Congressional leaders have already called on Congress to reject the agreement. In a press release issued even before the agreement was signed, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) stated that the “TPP is too dangerous for us simply to stand aside and let it pass.” She continued, “When the jobs and wages of working families are jeopardized by a bad trade agreement, we risk engaging in a global ‘race to the bottom’ that our country cannot afford, and that our middle class does not deserve.”
Fast Track also prevents Congress from having input into U.S. trading partners, a big concern since among the countries included in the TPP is oil-rich Brunei, a country that adopted a vicious new penal code last year that threatens the rights and lives of women, lesbians, and gay men, as well as other countries with questionable human rights records.
According to Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the TPP will not only “ship more American jobs overseas [and] lower wages here at home,” it will “force us to do business with notorious human rights violators such as Malaysia, a country with one of the most egregious records of human trafficking.” Slaughter vowed “to use every tool at our disposal to stand up for the American worker and oppose the TPP.”
Media Resources: Reuters 2/4/16; Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro Press Release 1/11/16; Feminist Newswire 6/10/15, 12/8/14, 7/9/14; Citizens Trade Campaign 4/27/15; Feministing 4/24/15;