The Teamsters joined hundreds of labor and fair-trade activists this afternoon in calling on the U.S. government not to move forward with the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or fast-track trade promotion authority that would speed its consideration. View photos from the event, here.
Rallying in front of the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, advocates chanted and cheered against the passage of TPP or fast track. They let the scores of international trade representatives in town to discuss TPP know that having workers across the globe toil for less money in unsafe workplaces to create goods that are harmful for the public is not a reasonable result.
“The voices of millions of working, middle-class Americans cannot be ignored,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “They are tired of being the casualties of bad trade deals that send good-paying jobs overseas. The Teamsters Union will continue to fight against Fast Track authorization and the Trans-Pacific Partnership – American workers cannot pay the price of another bad trade deal.”
The TPP’s problems are deep and diverse. U.S. dairy groups, for example, have stressed to American trade negotiators that any deal must open up dairy markets to this country’s farmers and processors first. They are rightfully concerned that they will lose market share to foreign competitors in the U.S. due to nations like New Zealand having a largely nationalized dairy sector. The Teamsters, representing 30,000 American dairy workers, have been outspoken on this issue.
Others nations are pushing their own agenda. In Australia, for example, sugar producers are unhappy with the state of the U.S. market and want to see a more open marketplace. Meanwhile, Japanese officials have said there are still many hurdles that need to be cleared before an agreement on the Pacific Rim trade deal can be reached.
And another nation involved in the proposed trade pact, Vietnam, is using child and slave labor to produce goods in its country. How can a country that allows such practices be allowed to participate in such a deal? Can they really be counted on to follow any regulations including in an agreement?
Of course, unions and fair-trade advocates have repeatedly raised concerns about the proposed trade deal, noting how it will ship good-paying jobs overseas. In return, the U.S. will receive unsafe food and products which will increasingly make their way into American homes.
For these reasons and more, and it is imperative that we stop fast track from happening. Congress will likely try to move forward with a bill early next year. Lawmakers should not be allowed to waive their constitutional mandate to review trade agreements like TPP. Hardworking Americans need Congress to do its job, not sign off on pacts they know little about with limited debate and no ability to amend them!
That’s why rallies like the one that occurred at the USTR office this afternoon are important. It is an opportunity for the people to tell government officials that American jobs and the public interest must be protected. Our future depends on it.