A senior House Democrat took aim today at a proposed Pacific Rim trade deal involving the U.S. which threatens workers, food safety and health care and urged her colleagues and the Obama administration to alter the current process. She was joined by union and small business leaders who said greater openness is needed as part of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) warned that while the deal may be good for big business, it’s a loser for average Americans who are just trying to provide for their families. She added additional transparency is needed so the public can better understand the 12-nation trade deal, and that pushing the deal through using an up-or-down vote mechanism known as fast track authority is not the way to go.
“Congress shouldn’t simply grant the administration fast-track authority. That belief is not just held by members of the Democratic caucus,” she said. “Twentieth century fast track is simply not appropriate for a 21st century agreement like the TPP.”
The lawmaker noted that the proposed trade pact “is a broad stroke and goes beyond traditional trade matters.” Only five of the TPP’s 29 chapters actually address trade.
One of her top concerns revolves around seafood safety. She noted that Vietnamese seafood was flagged by U.S. officials 206 times in 2012 and not allowed to be brought into the country due to filth or decomposition. Approval of the TPP would only make matters worse because more fish from the nation would be allowed to be imported to the U.S.
DeLauro joins the Teamsters, the Communications Workers of America and fair trade advocates such as Public Citizen who are urging for a more open process and one where Congress fulfills its constitutionally-mandated responsibility to review and approve all trade deals. Fast-track would not allow amendments to be offered on the TPP and would limit debate of any trade agreement.
Larry Cohen, CWA’s president, said those on Capitol Hill need to take a closer look at the issue. “Our union and many other organizations … have been concerned with process in the Senate,” he said. “The process stinks and we need to fix it. [The TPP] needs clarity around issues of the environment, labor rights and workers.”
President Obama is scheduled to be in Bali next week to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative (APEC) summit with the heads of state from the 11 other TPP-involved nations. There they hope to make progress on bringing this faulty agreement to a conclusion.
As it stands, the U.S. could end up being stuck with a trade deal that undercuts U.S. workers, lessens labor protections, allows a government-sponsored dairy company in New Zealand to infiltrate our nation with substandard products and permits unsafe food to make it to American dinner tables.
DeLauro said the Obama administration could help pull back the veil of secrecy on the TPP by allowing lawmakers and their staffs less restrictive access to the agreement. “Quite frankly, what you want to be able to do is look at the whole thing,” she said.