To the Editor:
In last Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, President Obama laid bare a fundamental contradiction that may well define his presidency — and not for the better. In his speech, he strongly encouraged Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial “trade” deal between 12 Pacific-Rim nations that appears certain to undermine much of the President’s previous seven years of accomplishment in the areas of economic recovery, economic equality, healthcare access, climate change, and the rescue of the U.S. auto industry. The TPP will affect up to 40% of the world’s trade, but it deals with much more than traditional trade issues — in many ways, it will increase the power of multinational corporations at the expense of democracy.
While President Obama touted the American jobs he has created since taking office, the TPP includes rules that will make it easier to offshore more American jobs to low wage countries — a recent economic study concluded that up to 450,000 American jobs could be lost. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994, the U.S. has lost more than 57,000 manufacturing facilities taking with them millions of well paying American middle class jobs. The TPP promises to continue this devastating trend.
A recent study found that the TPP would result in a pay cut for all but the richest 10% of U.S. workers — further exacerbating U.S. income inequality just as past trade deals have done. Reduced wages will be no surprise if the TPP subjects American workers to more competition from workers in countries like Vietnam who make less than 65 cents an hour.
TPP rules could gut the important “Buy American” preferences that require government-purchased goods to be made in America. Other provisions of the TPP could increase U.S. health care costs by expanding monopoly patent protections for big pharmaceutical firms. New TPP rules could threaten the rebound of the U.S. auto industry by lowering the bar for what constitutes “Made in America.” Environmental standards could be rolled back under the TPP and our ability to follow through on the historic climate change commitments recently negotiated in Paris could be hampered. Financial reforms put in place in the wake of the financial meltdown could be threatened by TPP provisions allowing foreign banks to “sue” the U.S. government over new financial regulations. The Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions of the TPP will newly empower thousands of foreign corporations to sue local, state and federal authorities if enacted legislation threatens their ability to make a profit.
The TPP would double down on NAFTA’s rules that were so detrimental to our economy. President Obama must choose between his agenda and its legacy or the TPP: he cannot have both. I urge Connecticut’s entire Congressional delegation to vote No on the TPP and ask President Obama to go back to the drawing board and negotiate a Fair Trade Deal for the American people — not a free trade deal for multinational corporations.
Chairman of the Fairfield County Chapter of Democracy for America and a member of the Connecticut Fair Trade Coalition