Op-Ed: Like other trade agreements, TPP likely will cause a massive loss of U.S. jobs — and at an unprecedented rate

August 2, 2015
In The News
By Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Published: August 2, 2015
The more we learn about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the less we like about it. Because of a woeful lack of transparency, the American people know very little about how this agreement will benefit multinational corporations at the expense of the American worker.

This historically massive trade deal — accounting for 40 percent of global trade — would reduce restrictions on foreign corporations operating within the U.S., limit our ability to protect our environment, and create more incentives for U.S. businesses to outsource investments and jobs overseas to countries with lower labor costs and standards.

Despite the lack of transparency, one can predict the impact of TPP and whose interests this deal will serve, based on who favors the agreement. More than 500 corporations, including Monsanto, Exxon-Mobil and Dow Chemical, are key advisers to U.S. negotiators and have access to information that is closed off from the American people. They have been providing their input in these negotiations every step of the way. Their influence helped force fast-track Trade Promotion Authority through Congress, taking away the ability of the American people to weigh in and leaving Congress the only option of a simple yea or nay vote on the final deal. Meanwhile, those who represent the voices of working-class stakeholders, the environment and human rights, remain opposed to the deal.

Although the TPP has been touted as the most progressive trade deal in history, that’s impossible to verify. But even if it were true, there is no reason to believe the provisions of this deal relating to labor standards, preserving American jobs, or protecting our environment, will be enforceable. Every trade agreement negotiated in the past claimed to have strong enforceable provisions to protect American jobs — yet no such enforcement has occurred, and agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of American jobs. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has called the TPP “NAFTA on steroids.” The loss of U.S. jobs under the TPP would likely be unprecedented.

As the gateway to Asia and the Pacific, jobs in Hawaii will be among the first to be affected. Skilled workers in Hawaii and across America won’t be able to compete against international minimum wages in many of the countries that are part of the TPP, some of which are below $3 a day for labor.

Core to our nation’s democracy, is our sovereignty and our ability to set and enforce our own standards and laws. This deal will include an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process which allows a foreign corporation or investor to dispute our U.S. laws related to workers’ rights and environmental protection, among other issues, placing our own domestic enforcement abilities at risk.

Last week the people of Hawaii protested the TPP negotiations held on Maui. Their message was simple: the American people deserve a voice in the largest trade agreement the world has ever seen. We need open debate and discussion, not negotiations with special interests behind closed doors. The future of the American economy and working people now rests in the hands of multinational corporations and foreign governments eager to pursue their own interests at the expense of American workers.

If the final trade agreement contains the noxious provisions that were in the fast-track authority legislation, I will do all I can to convince my colleagues to join me in standing up for working Americans by voting against this trade deal when it comes before Congress.

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