Legislators and activists are still concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed regional free trade agreement that addresses a broad range of issues and is currently being negotiated between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations. It will be the world’s largest free-trade zone in history if a final deal is reached.
A recent report released by Representative Sandy Levin (D-MI), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, urges trade officials to consider certain details before moving forward with the trade negotiations. The report highlights the need for improvements in and full implementation of workers’ rights in some of the TPP partner nations, the creation of enforceable environmental protections, and the need to ensure that all of the trading partners are committed to human rights.
Brunei, one of the countries involved in TPP negotiations, has in particular faced US-based protests over the past few months for its implementation of a draconian penal code that includes the stoning to death of gay men and lesbians, the public flogging of women who have abortions, and the jailing of women who become pregnant outside of marriage.
The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) in May launched a petition drive and social media campaign #StopTheSultan calling on the Sultan of Brunei to revoke the new penal code. A group of 12 women’s rights organizations joined with FMF in June to deliver a letter to the White House expressing outrage over the penal code and asking the Administration to stop negotiating the TPP with Brunei.
“Under TPP rules, all business entities incorporated in Brunei would be guaranteed treatment equal to U.S. domestic firms when bidding on government contracts, meaning that our U.S. tax dollars would be underwriting that country’s kill-a-gay and flog-a-woman laws,” Martha Burk wrote in “Stop the Sultan” in the Fall 2014 issue of Ms. magazine. She encouraged readers to send a message to legislators in the midterm elections to show them they do not want “a trade agreement that undermines the rights of women, destroys jobs, weakens food safety and environmental safeguards and further undermines our already weak financial regulations.”
Media Resources: Ms. Magazine Fall 2014 Issue; The Hill 9/18/14; US House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means 9/18/14; Feminist Newswire 5/1/14, 6/9/14, 7/9/14