Yesterday was a huge day in the US Senate as progressive legislators took to the Senate floor to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A group of eight Senators spoke out in opposition to the TPP and specifically the “fast tracking” of the TPP.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown opened the parade of speeches by saying, “American workers are the most competitive and most productive in the world…. Far too many have been left behind because of wrong-headed trade deals.” Brown continued by saying, “Productivity has gone up 85% while wage have only gone up by 6%.“
Wages have remained stagnant, as workers have continued to see their jobs shipped overseas with unfair trade agreements. “The last thing we need is another NAFTA,” said Brown.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders spoke at length on the detrimental impacts of these so-called “free trade” agreements.
“We were told that permanent trade agreements with China would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Well not quite,” stated Sanders. Senator Sanders goes on to say that permanent trade agreements with China “has led to the loss of 3 million good paying American jobs.”
When the North American Free Trade Agreement was being discussed they said it would create hundreds of thousands of new American jobs. “NAFTA has led to the loss of 1 million American jobs,” said Sanders. “Since we signed NAFTA the United States has cumulative trade deficit of 8.8 trillion dollars. That is wealth that has left the U.S. and gone overseas.”
The impacts of these trade agreements on American workers have become painfully obvious. Significant job losses and lower wages have been seen in every state across the nation.
Now as the President is asking for “fast track” authority to negotiate a new trade agreement in secret. Senator Sanders highlighted the fact that none of the major news networks are talking about the TPP and the potential impacts on American workers.
“The TPP is just a new easy way for corporations to shut down in America and to send jobs abroad,” said Sanders. “It is estimated that the US will lose over 100,000 American jobs.”
“We must create a new set of trade policies that work for the ordinary American worker and not for large corporations and big campaign donors,” demanded Sanders. “It is time to stand up and say enough is enough. This country is now in a major race to the bottom.”
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley also highlighted the impacts of these so-called free trade agreements. Free trade agreements have led to “loss of 50,000 factories and the loss of five million manufacturing workers.”
One of the most frustrating parts of this proposed trade agreement is that the details are a closely held secret. Negotiations are being conducted behind closed doors without input from the public.
Senator Merkley wants to ensure that any new trade agreements put American workers first.
“Let us make sure that we create a standard for the consideration of future trade deals. A standard that is whether this deal will create good paying jobs in America, will expand prosperity to the middle class in America, or will it do the opposite.” (Senator Merkley’s Video 3:45)
However the biggest opponent to the TPP is Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Senator Warren. “I come to the floor today to ask a fundamental question, who will benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership?”
Senator Warren took an in-depth look at one of the leaked provisions of the TPP the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Companies bring their claims to a group of foreign arbitrators instead of taking their claims through the U.S. court system. The ISDS provision basically allows foreign companies to bypass our court system therefore bypassing any or all of our laws.
“This provision fundamentally tilts the playing field further in favor of big multi-national corporations, worse yet it undermines U.S. sovereignty,” said Warren.
“If a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations wants to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage it can use ISDS,” explained Warren. “If an American labor union believes the Vietnamese companies are paying slave labor wages in violation of trade commitments, the union has to try to wind itself through the Vietnamese courts. Good luck with that.”
After explaining how ISDS was created after WWII, Senator Warren stated, “I don’t know if these justifications made sense then, but they sure don’t make sense now.”
“The use of ISDS is on the rise,” said Warren. “From 1959 to 2002 there were fewer than 100 claims worldwide. In 2012 alone there were 58 cases.”
Warren continues by laying out examples of cases that were brought forward to the ISDS:
- A French company sued Egypt, because Egypt raised its minimum wage
- A Swedish company sued Germany because Germany decided to phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster
- A Dutch company sued the Czech Republic because the Czech Republic failed to bail out a bank that the Dutch company partially owned
- Philip Morris is trying to use ISDS to stop Uruguay from implementing new tobacco regulations aimed a reducing domestic smoking rates
Progressives are not the only ones who are opposing the ISDS provision in the TPP. The head of CATO Institute Trade Policy said, [ISDS] “Raises serious questions about democratic accountability, sovereignty, checks and balances, and the separation of power… These concerns about ISDS are ones the Libertarians and other free market advocates should share.” (Read more from the CATO Institute)
We must put a stop to this disastrous free-trade agreements that will ship more of our jobs overseas and further depress our wages.
“Progressives should oppose ISDS because it allows big multi-nationals to weaken labor and environmental rules,” concluded Warren. “So long as TPP includes Investor State Dispute Settlement the only winners will be international corporations.”
There were addition speeches yesterday and you can check them out thanks to the Communication Workers of America.
- Sen. Ed Markey, D-MA http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4529460/sen-markey-speaks-us-trade-policy
- Sen. Bob Casey, D-PA http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4529462/sen-casey-speaks-us-trade-policy
- Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4529463/sen-baldwin-speaks-us-trade-policy
- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4529466/sen-whitehouse-speaks-us-trade-policy
(For more information go to StopTheTPP.Org)