The Obama administration finally released the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement on Nov. 5, officially kicking off the battle within his own party as he seeks congressional approval for the deal.
The release of the nearly 6,000-page document, which
resulted from secret negotiations between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific-rim
countries, came just five months after the House and Senate granted President Obama
the controversial fast-track authority he sought to ease the trade agreement’s
path through the Congress.
Despite solid opposition from labor and other progressive
organizations – the IBEW among them – fast-track passed in June with the
support of just 28 Democrats in the House and 13 in the Senate. For TPP to
survive a straight up-or-down vote next year, Obama will again need to rely
heavily on Republican votes.
Upon finally seeing the text of the deal itself, dozens of
TPP opponents spoke out against the pact they said would be disastrous to
American workers and the environment while doing almost nothing to prevent
currency manipulation by other signatory countries.
“This deal just confirms all our worst fears,” said IBEW
International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “Now that we can finally see what
we’ve been fighting against, it looks awfully similar to past trade deals that
have paved the way for outsourcing, lifting up multinational corporations at
the expense of working families and consumers.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka piled on, saying, “It is
clear that the threats of this expansive new agreement outweigh its benefits –
for good jobs, for democracy, for affordable medicines, for consumer safety and
for the environment.”
Environmental activists were no kinder to the president and
his trade negotiators. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune blasted the
deal, saying, “It’s no surprise that the deal is rife with polluter giveaways
that would undermine decades of environmental progress, threaten our climate
and fail to adequately protect wildlife because big polluters helped write the
Brune went on, calling the TPP’s environmental chapter
“toothless,” saying it failed in parts to even meet the standards of deals
negotiated under the George W. Bush administration.
Human rights activists joined the chorus in opposition as
well, blasting American cooperation with repressive nations like Brunei and
Malaysia, who have histories of discrimination and human trafficking abuses.
But the White House was undeterred. “I know that past trade
agreements haven’t always lived up to the hype,” Obama admitted in a blog post.
“That’s what makes this trade agreement so different and so important,” he
wrote, calling TPP, “a new type of trade deal that puts American workers
Democrats, for the most part, are expected to hold up their
opposition to the deal when it comes before Congress sometime next year, and
the White House will have to rely on the same Republican leaders they leaned on
during the fast-track fight this summer.
For his part, new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, told a Fox
News interviewer this week he was open to bringing TPP for a vote before the
“lame duck” session following the presidential election next November but
admitted, “I don’t know when the vote’s going to occur.”
Technically, the 90-day review period required by law
expires early next year, but observers expect lawmakers to wait at least until
spring, and possibly until after next year’s election.
Whatever the case, Obama and the Republicans will face stiff
opposition to the deal, likely led by longtime TPP skeptic Sen. Elizabeth
“TPP isn’t classified military intelligence,” she wrote
before the fast-track vote, blasting the secrecy surrounding the deal. “It’s a
trade agreement among 12 countries that control 40 percent of the world’s
economy. A trade agreement that affects jobs, environmental regulations, and
whether workers around the globe are treated humanely. It might even affect the
new financial rules we put in place after the 2008 crisis.
“This trade agreement doesn’t matter to just the biggest
corporations,” she warned. “It matters to all of us.”
Photo used under a
Creative Commons license from Flickr user Lauren Manning.