Obama Still Swimming Against the Tide on TPP

Martha Burk

Congress is set to blow town this week or early next until after the election – without taking up the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a giant twelve-nation trade agreement between the U.S. and  Pacific Rim nations.

Even though the TPP appears dead in the water, President Obama has vowed to continue pursuing it until he leaves office next January.  Pundits say it’s a move to burnish his legacy before he vacates the Oval Office. He’s been getting a push from Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, who’s trying to rally the  support from more than 40 holdout Democrats he says will be needed. Never mind that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised it won’t come up for a vote (even though Republicans generally favor it), and both presidential candidates are preaching against it and rallying the public at large.

Good for them.  To borrow one of Donald Trump’s favorite words, we already know it’s a “disaster” for U.S. workers. But what folks may not realize is that many of its provisions will hurt women the most.

The Communications Workers of America says the TPP will steal majority-female jobs from low wage workplaces like call centers as well as higher-paid sectors such as human resources and medical diagnostics. And according to Doctors Without Borders, the agreement may well cut off access to generic drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS (now predominately women and kids).

At the same time supporters in Congress were beating their chests in 2015 when they passed fast track authority making Obama the sole negotiator on TPP claiming it will create jobs, they also passed a companion measure called the TAA –Trade Adjustment Assistance.  And what would that do? Give help to U.S. workers displaced by free trade agreements. Huh?  Didn’t they say the TPP would create jobs?  Yeah, but they forgot to mention those much touted new jobs will be in low wage countries paying pennies per hour.

There will also be collateral damage.  The predominately female Association of Flight Attendants says the TPP will open the door for the next big trade deal in the pipeline — the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a similar agreement with the European Union. It will allow the EU to push for access to the U.S. domestic airline market and an increase in allowable foreign ownership and control of U.S. airlines, devastating their job security.

The final insult?  Businesses incorporated in Trans Pacific Partnership countries would be guaranteed equal treatment with U.S. firms when bidding on government contracts.  That means our tax dollars would be underwriting countries like Brunei, which imprisons unmarried women for getting pregnant and allows stoning of gays and lesbians.

If the President Obama really wants to help U.S. workers and boost his legacy, why not lean on Congress about  something guaranteed to work quickly and help female workers right here at home – like a higher minimum wage.  But the Trans Pacific Partnership? Throw it overboard.

Get updates in your inbox