There’s a silly argument afoot lately that those who oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are opposed to all trade deals between nations. Quite the contrary. We support trade, we rely on trade, and we understand the importance of trade to the people and businesses in our state.
That is precisely why we oppose the TPP.
All public policy should express our values as a country. Trade agreements should raise the standard of living for people living here, as well as in countries where we trade.
The TPP was written by and for multinational corporations and investors. As with NAFTA, they wrote the rules to primarily benefit their shareholders’ interests, not those of people trying to make a living in a more globalized economy.
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And so far, the rules have worked exactly as they were designed to work. Corporate profits have increased dramatically over the two decades since NAFTA while average wages for working people have remained stagnant and income inequality has risen.
BuzzFeed recently documented “global super courts,” the innocently named Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process that allows corporations to challenge governments for interfering with their “right” to put investor interests above public interests. The report exposed the use of ISDS to hide illegal corporate activity and threaten nations into deregulation, and how investors and banks are enriching themselves by speculating on ISDS lawsuits and winning huge awards — while taxpayers foot the bill.
The TPP is a flawed agreement. Though proponents tout its labor and human rights standards, and promise more jobs, organizations supporting labor, jobs, and human rights oppose it, including (among many others) every union in the AFL-CIO, Doctors without Borders, International Labor Rights Forum, and the National Organization for Women.
TPP’s proponents claim it sets enforceable environmental laws, but environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, and Earth Justice oppose it.
Those who promote human rights, labor rights, environmental standards, food and product safety, access to medicine are standing up to multinational corporations in the interests of civil society and opposing the TPP.
We have not seen the great benefits of status quo trade agreements promised since NAFTA. People know this from our lived experience, and are skeptical of more of the same – huge profits and deregulation for corporations that write the rules, worsening of health, safety, and environmental standards, lower wages and worsening of the standard of living for the rest of us.
That is why the TPP won’t come up for a vote in Congress before the election. It may come up during the lame-duck session when politicians believe they won’t be held accountable for their vote. We deserve to know where members of Congress stand on the TPP before the election.
Washington state depends on trade. The people of Washington, as well as across the nation and in the countries where we trade, should demand trade agreements that improve our lives and our communities.
We can do better. We must.
Lynne Dodson is secretary treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Bob Guenther is president of the Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.