Letter: Say no to 'Fast Track' to job loss

To the Editor,

Most Connecticut residents don't spend a lot of time thinking about free trade agreements. What they don't realize is just how devastating the agreements can be to our economy. Once these treaties are signed, a complex set of consequences is set in motion that can be hard to reverse — and these consequences will affect all of us.

Right now, one of the largest free trade agreements in history is being negotiated between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations and almost no one seems to know about it. It's called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and it will establish rules and regulations affecting up to 40% of the world's trade. President Obama along with many Republicans and some Democrats on Capitol Hill claim the TPP will create jobs, stimulate trade and constrain Chinese power. Congress will soon take up a bill that would give the President expanded powers to carry out negotiations on trade deals like the TPP. This so-called Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority is something that many previous presidents have been granted to push through treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but it is a very bad idea.

First of all, the TPP is being negotiated in almost complete secrecy. Access to the text is limited — our Congressmen are only allowed to read the text, but they cannot take notes or reveal what they have seen. Meanwhile, more the 600 corporate executives are at the table advising on the content of the TPP. Will the resulting treaty be good for America, or will it only be good for multi-national corporations?

Secondly, trade agreements today go far beyond traditional trade issues like tariffs and quotes. The TPP is a massive 29-chapter agreement that would establish binding rules on issues related to labor rights, energy and the environment, medicine pricing, patents and copyright, food and product safety, Net neutrality, government procurement, financial regulation, immigration, healthcare, and more. The TPP could empower foreign corporations to bypass domestic courts and challenge U.S. and Connecticut health, environmental and other public interest policies that they claim jeopardize their future profits - threatening the very sovereignty of our democracy.

Thirdly, most free trade deals signed over the last few decades have not turned out as promised. Connecticut has lost over 96,000 manufacturing jobs since the 1994 NAFTA and World Trade Organization agreements took effect. Workers that lose jobs to trade and find reemployment are typically forced to take pay cuts.

With so much at stake for the economy and for U.S. and Connecticut workers, the Connecticut Fair Trade Coalition is calling on Connecticut's Congressional delegation to stand up for Connecticut workers and make sure the TPP will be good for Connecticut BEFORE the President signs it.

This Saturday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on McLevy Green in Bridgeport, the CFTC will be holding a rally to raise awareness about the TPP and Fast Track. We are asking Congressman Jim Himes to just say NO to Fast Track. Won't you join us?

Doug Sutherland