Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has promised to delay efforts to push through the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal until the Senate first deals with two stalled bills that may soon expire.
Reid says that the two measures, an infrastructure bill on highway funding, and reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), are “very complicated issues,” that require the Senate’s attention “before we even deal with [the Trans-Pacific Partnership].”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive free trade agreement currently being promoted by the Obama Administration, has been heavily criticized by humanitarian groups, environmental groups, and medical groups. These groups charge that the agreement not only threatens US jobs, but it threatens environmental regulations, food and safety standards, workers’ rights, and access to affordable medications, among other issues. The TPP, which would include 12 nations, has largely been negotiated in secret and without robust input from the American public, although corporate interests have been included in negotiations.
In addition to these concerns, the TPP also includes Brunei as a member, a country that has recently adopted a vicious penal code threatening the rights and lives of women and gay men. The Feminist Majority has consistently called on the Obama Administration not to do business with a regime that has adopted a penal code antithetical to human rights.
“Any deal that forces women and human rights to take a backseat to profit and trade should be a non-starter,” explained Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. “At a minimum, the US should not enter into a partnership with a country that just last year adopted a penal code authorizing torture and violence against its citizens,” Smeal continued.
Smeal refers specifically to the most troubling aspects of Brunei’s penal code, which calls for fines, imprisonment, flogging, or death by stoning for women and men committing such “crimes” as adultery, abortion, same-sex sexual relations, or so-called “indecent behavior” such as cross-dressing.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) recently introduced “Fast Track” legislation in the Senate that would allow the TPP to be pushed through Congress. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has also introduced companion legislation in the House. Under the Ryan-Hatch Fast Track bill, Congress would give the President broad power to select US trading partners, determine the content of trade agreements, and conclude negotiations, all before Congress voted on the substance of an agreement. Congress would set out negotiating objectives, but these objectives would be entirely unenforceable. Instead, once an agreement has been signed, the president would only have to submit it to Congress for an up-or-down vote. Fast Track would forbid Congress from offering any amendments, would limit debate to only 20 hours, and force a vote within 90 days.
The Feminist Majority joined over 2,000 organizations, including Citizens Trade Campaign, to send a letter to members of Congress opposing the Ryan-Hatch Fast Track bill. The Feminist Majority also has released a petition asking people to urge their representatives to vote against the TPP agreement.
Media Resources: Huffington Post 5/4/15; 2/9/15; Citizens Trade Campaign