Blue-Green Alliance asks Congress to keep trade negotiating authority

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 24, 2014 

The United States is secretly negotiating an expansive new trade with nine Pacific Rim countries. These negotiations have been underway for more than three years and are targeted for completion this year. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as TPP, would be the most significant international commercial agreement since the World Trade Organization - posing broad threats to U.S. jobs, food safety, financial regulation, affordable medicine and more.

Our trade policies since NAFTA have inflated our trade deficit, hollowed out our manufacturing sector, pushed wages down, and enhanced the 1 percent's influence over our economy. NAFTA was sold to the American public as a way to create 200,000 new jobs through increased exports to Mexico but, by 2010, growing trade deficits with Mexico had eliminated 682,900 U.S. jobs, with job losses in every U.S. state and congressional district. In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, 10,800 jobs have been lost in Washington State because of this rising trade deficit with Mexico.

Up until now, the TPP negotiations have been undemocratic with more than 600 corporate representatives having unlimited access to the draft text as official U.S. trade advisors, while the U.S. people, many Congressional members, and the press have mostly shut out. The TPP is being negotiated on behalf of U.S. workers and community, yet there has been no evidence that this agreement will at all support communities that are struggling in these tough economic times.

As members of the Washington Blue-Green Alliance, we are concerned that Congress may "fast track" the TPP agreement, which would take away Congress' ability to debate TPP, amend it or do little more than vote yes or no.

Previous trade agreements negotiated and implemented under Fast Track, such as NAFTA, have led to widespread damage: millions of American jobs offshored, floods of unsafe imported food and products that do not meet our safety standards, and attacks on our domestic environmental and consumer protection laws in foreign tribunals.

At stake is Congress' constitutional authority to represent our interests. We elect our members of Congress to use their power to advocate for a healthy environment, investment in infrastructure, and the creation of family wage jobs. We are concerned that fast-track authority gives this power away and leaves us susceptible to increased exporting of American jobs, to challenges to our high environmental standards and limits protection from imported food that doesn't meet our safety standards.

To date, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene is neutral on the subject of fast-track, and we encourage this thoughtfulness on this complicated issue. Our community urges her to oppose fast-track so that Congress does not give away its authority to make sure every provision of TPP is in our best interest before it is signed. A full debate about the impacts of this and other trade pacts is needed for the sake of our economy, environment and health.

It's possible to have trade deals that create jobs, fix the U.S. trade deficit, and include enforceable labor and environmental standards. We hope the United States will join us in leading this effort.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Mark Lowry is the president of the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and Robin Everett is the Sierra Club's northwest Washington regional organizer.

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