Opposition to the corporate-driven Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has steadily grown across the political spectrum this year. The labor and environmental movements have joined together with millions of hard-working Americans, thousands of civil society organizations, economists, and elected leaders to speak out against this toxic trade deal. Reflecting the large and growing public anti-TPP sentiment, both Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have come out in strong opposition to the proposed trade deal.
It’s good news that opposition to the TPP is so strong – but it is incumbent on us to understand why these candidates oppose this disastrous deal. It does not take long to realize there is a dramatic difference in values and goals when it comes to why both candidates reject the TPP.
Hillary Clinton is opposed to the TPP because she recognizes the dangers this deeply-flawed trade pact poses to American workers and wages, our climate, and domestic manufacturing. Her principled opposition is paired with an understanding of the threats this deal poses to not only our country, but the entire planet.
In contrast, Donald Trump declared his opposition after demonizing and scapegoating immigrants. There’s a frightening pattern. Trump has made opposition to the TPP a central part of a campaign rooted in xenophobia and racism, and it’s no coincidence. When Trump talks about why he opposes the TPP, it’s not because he rejects it for its effects on good jobs and good wages, and environmental impact. It’s just the opposite: He has said wages are too high for manufacturing workers and called on companies to move to low-wage states. Trump criticizes the TPP in the same breath – or tweet – in which he attacks every workplace protection and environmental safeguard in the books and slanders refugees struggling to find a better life. His hateful rhetoric does not reflect our values, and that’s why it is more important than ever to be clear about why progressives oppose the TPP and what we’re trying to build in its place.
The UAW and the Sierra Club oppose the TPP because it is rigged to benefit large corporations at the expense of everyday people and the planet. The deal would empower corporate polluters to go to private, unaccountable tribunals and challenge the environmental protections on which we all rely for clean air, safe water, and a stable climate. The TPP would extend access to corporate tribunals to thousands of new firms and, thereby, threaten new environmental and public-interest safeguards in all 12 of the nations involved. These benefits to multinational corporations are not surprising given that the TPP was created behind closed doors except for its nearly 600 advisors, 85 percent of whom come from private industry and trade groups.
The pact would lead to closed factories and lost jobs. Even many advocates of the TPP admit it will kill U.S. manufacturing jobs. This comes as no surprise. After all, countries that cheat on their currency to keep the prices of their goods artificially low will be able to keep doing so under the terms of the TPP. Economists across the political spectrum agree that currency manipulation disadvantages workers from many countries and has already cost millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs. Importantly, the TPP pits U.S. workers against workers in other countries who earn abysmally low wages and endure daily abuses. Mexican auto workers often face grave consequences for attempting to exercise their basic right to join a union and often earn as little as four dollars per hour.
Our opposition to the TPP is not just about how it contradicts our progressive values at home, but also in nations all around the world. The TPP’s destructive impacts would not be constrained by international borders. In contrast to Donald Trump’s xenophobic rage, we reject the TPP because it would worsen an international climate crisis that is destroying communities and ecosystems around the world and disproportionately harms communities living in poverty and communities of color.
We say “no” to this deal because workers everywhere should be paid living wages, not pitted against each other in a global race to the bottom. Opposition to the TPP is not about prioritizing U.S. interests over those of other countries. It is about prioritizing the needs of our planet and communities everywhere over the narrow interests of multinational corporations.
We need to structure trade in a way that not only allows nations to tackle the climate crisis and protect workers’ rights, but actually requires stronger action. We need trade pacts that encourage the local production of goods, which would not only generate new jobs but also create vibrant local economies. Such a model would eliminate rules that empower multinational corporations to attack climate, public health and other safeguards, and clean energy investments in private trade tribunals.
The first step toward building a new model of trade that will support workers and protect our climate, instead of the profits of multinational corporations, is to reject the TPP. This toxic deal deserves to be a national issue during this election – but for the right reasons rather than as fodder for xenophobia and hate. We must reject the TPP because a clean environment, healthy communities, and good-paying jobs around the world are at stake.