By Michael Gutwig, Editor and Manager
U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici says she is still undecided on how she will vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a major initiative of the Obama Administration.
The Oregon Democrat told the Executive Board of the Northwest Oregon Labor Council on Feb. 22 that she is still reviewing the complex two-thousand-plus page document that was negotiated in secret starting in 2010. The full text of the agreement was released last November.
The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations (40 percent of the world’s economy) — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan — signed the TPP on Feb. 4, 2016. It now must be ratified by Congress on a “fast track” vote, which means the deal must be voted up-or-down without any amendments. Bonamici supported the bill that implemented fast track — formally known as Trade Promotion Authority.
The AFL-CIO strongly opposes the TPP, while corporate America strongly supports it. Bonamici’s district includes Nike and Intel.
The labor federation said it provided the Obama Administration with ideas to improve U.S. trade positions so that they would benefit rank and file workers, not just the 1%ers. Their ideas were rejected.
“The final TPP will not create jobs, protect the environment or ensure safe imports,” the AFL-CIO said in a statement. “Rather, it appears modeled after the North American Free Trade Agreement, a free trade agreement that boosts global corporate profits while leaving working families behind.”
At the Feb. 22 NOLC meeting, Bonamici acknowledged that NAFTA “was a disaster.” She said labor and environmental protections were side agreements in that trade pact, and that she is looking to see if the TPP fixes some of that language. She said she wouldn’t support the TPP if it doesn’t contain strong labor and environmental protections and enforceable language.
“I don’t want to see more jobs go overseas,” she said. “I want to see more Oregon products exported overseas.”
The AFL-CIO says commitments to improve labor rights and environmental practices in the TPP are vague, and the proposed enforcement scheme relies wholly on the discretion of the next Administration.
“The TPP contains strict, clear and stronger protections for foreign investors and pharmaceutical monopolies,” the labor federation said in a statement. “It is clear that, as currently drafted, the TPP would increase corporate profits and skew benefits to economic elites, while leaving workers to bear the brunt of the TPP’s shortcomings, including lost jobs, lower wages and continued repression of worker rights.”
It is uncertain when the agreement may come up for a vote. Republican leaders in the Senate say they may wait until after the presidential election. Bonamici predicts “it will be a long while” before a vote is held.
(Editor’s Note: To date, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley are the only members of Oregon’s congressional delegation to publicly oppose the TPP. )