The Teamsters, other unions and fair trade advocates have for years criticized a proposed Pacific Rim trade deal for its lack of transparency. Now trade officials with the 12 nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are paying the price for not having an open process as they can't seem to come to an agreement on the proposal.
A meeting in Singapore this week set up specifically to announce a final TPP agreement resulted in utter failure when participating nations announced they still need more time to hash out several critical issues. Despite efforts to keep the deal out of public view, leaks have occurred that have led to concern and more questions. People here in the U.S. and across the globe increasingly believe they have a right to know how the TPP will affect them.
There is even one significant issue that hasn't been addressed yet. Currency manipulation, for example, allows nations like China to get an unfair leg up on trade. It causes the U.S. to run trade deficits in the billions of dollars with other countries and leads to American jobs being moved overseas. A majority of House and Senate members earlier this year asked the Obama administration to address the matter as part of the TPP. But it appears U.S. officials didn't even raise the issue during the Singapore meetings.
Why would such a major matter, with strong bipartisan support, be pushed aside? Because there is increasing desperation to reach an agreement. Negotiators know they are in a race against time. As more details are secretly leaked about how the deal will affect workers and consumers, opposition is rising. Trade officials are suffering for engaging in a closed process.
The latest leaks show the U.S. is pushing forward with policies that further investor privileges and investor-state dispute settlement that expose our laws to foreign tribunals. They also expand incentives to move more U.S. jobs abroad, hurting hard-working Americans who are already paying the price for previous financial policy disasters. Meanwhile, enforceable labor and environmental standards remain unresolved. And efforts to rein in unfair subsidies for state-owned entities like New Zealand's dairy industry remain undone.
Add to that the opposition to fast-track trade authority from both Democrats and Republicans and the picture becomes clearer. TPP is a going to be dead on arrival unless the administration changes how it is handling the situation. That means making the trade pact public so everyone has a chance to comment on the proposal. I am calling for the release of the text of this agreement. We cannot rely on unconfirmed leaks to find out what is in this agreement.
The Teamsters set out key fair trade objectives for the TPP three years ago that we believed the proposed trade deal had to meet to earn our support. They are:
- Protect workers' rights through a strong labor chapter;
- Protect the environment through a strong environmental chapter;
- Protect American investors in the investment chapter - no "investor-state" dispute resolution;
- Protect food safety and family farmers; and
- Allow for "Buy American" government purchasing rules in the procurement chapter
Well, we're not there yet. Or shall I say, we don't know if we're there yet. But either way, there needs to be more certainty for policymakers and the public if they are going to go along with such a deal. Americans deserve a bigger say in their future.