Liberal House Members State Bottom-Line Demands For Trade Pact Vote

Dave Johnson

As Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiators meet in secret to try to conclude the agreement several members of Congress held a press conference on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday morning to press for labor, environmental, consumer, health and human rights and other “stakeholder” concerns to be addressed. They warn that these concerns must be addressed in the treaty or it cannot pass Congress.

Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), George Miller (D-Calif.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.) held a press conference today in front of the Capitol to discuss specific guarantees in the upcoming agreement outlined in several public letters from members of Congress. They are asking that TPP include:

  • Enforceable currency rules: 230 representatives and 60 senators issued a public letter demanding that enforceable currency manipulation terms be included in the TPP.
  • Labor rights: 153 representatives announced that they would oppose any TPP commercial benefits for countries with serious labor right issues, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico and Brunei, until conditions in those countries had improved for workers and unions.
  • Brunei human rights/Sharia penal code: 120 Democrats issued a letter calling for suspension of TPP talks with Brunei because of a recent decree that Sharia law be imposed.
  • Environmental rules: 130 representatives called for sanctions-enforceable environmental rules.
  • No limits on Buy American procurement: The House recently unanimously adopted an amendment to the appropriations bill that funds the trade representative office that would prohibit negotiators from waiving the Buy America Act. The amended bill passed 321-87.
  • Affordable medicines: Several letters call seek to protect access to affordable medicines and oppose the U.S. trade representative’s demands on medicine patent extensions.

Other concerns the elected officials expressed include intellectual property rules and provisions allowing corporations to sue governments for laws and regulations that might interfere with potential profits. However, negotiators appear to be ignoring these calls from members of Congress.

A Secret Process Designed To Deliver For A Few Giant Multinational Corporations

TPP is being negotiated in secret. Now even advance knowledge of the location of negotiations is apparently kept from the public – the secret treaty negotiations were secretly moved from Vancouver to Ottawa at the very last minute. This was likely done to keep people from organizing protests, which could alert and inform the public that this treaty is being negotiated.

The secrecy of the negotiations is unprecedented. While members of Congress are allowed to view negotiating documents they may not take notes or even consult with staff. However, the secrecy is not universal. Approximately 600 corporate “advisors” have complete access to documents.

The negotiations are entirely about what the giant, multinational corporations want. They are not negotiating rules that prohibit companies from threatening to move someone’s job out of a country if they ask for higher wages — they are negotiating the opposite. They are not negotiating rules to prohibit companies from profiting by bypassing a border to a country where they can pollute the environment, they are negotiating the opposite. They are not negotiating ways to make it easy and inexpensive for people to get access to medicines, food and other basic necessities, they are negotiating the opposite.

“Stakeholders” like representatives of labor organizations, citizens groups, human rights groups, environmental groups, consumer groups, public health advocates and any other organizations or group that does not represent the interests of a few giant, multinational corporations are not part of the negotiating process and are kept away from negotiators.

One example of how trade agreements like TPP are pushed through involves the effort to waive Buy America rules in U.S. government procurement. Currently the U.S. government offers more than $500 billion of federal procurement that has Buy america rules. This is so that U.S. taxpayer dollars strengthen U.S. jobs and manufacturers. This U.S. procurement market is more than ten times larger than all the procurement markets of all TPP partners combined. So the trade negotiators offer this as an incentive to get other countries to sign up for this agreement. Their countries lose the ability to regulate labor and environmental standards, etc., but get the opportunity for their own large corporations to bid on getting hundreds of billions of U.S. government business.

It does not cost U.S. multinationals anything to offer up hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in the negotiations, and in exchange they get increased access to exploited workers and the ability to pollute the environment without limit as an added bonus.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said recently that there are three types of trade negotiators involved:

1) People who used to work for giant, multinational corporations.
2) People who want to work for giant, multinational corporations.
3) People who used to work for giant, multinational corporations and who want to work for giant, multinational corporations again.

Coverage Of TPP

In spite of the enormous stakes and consequences if this trade agreement is implemented, there is very little coverage of it or information about it in the U.S. media. Wednesday morning’s press conference has so far not received any notable coverage.

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