My Turn: TPP must be squelched

Published: 10/12/2016 5:19:38 PM

Surprisingly, one of the biggest political fights of 2016 is set to take place after November’s election is over.

Backers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) recently put America on notice that the 12-nation trade deal would come up for a vote in Congress during the lame duck period between the election and the start of the new year.

This secretive scheme for a last-minute TPP vote isn’t just undemocratic. It’s a threat to jobs and wages, corporate accountability and the environment. Massachusetts lawmakers must do everything possible to stop it.

We applaud our western Massachusetts congressmen, Richard Neal and James McGovern, for their public positions against the TPP. We ask them to shore up the Massachusetts delegation, in particular by asking Seth Moulton and Joe Kennedy to come out against the TPP.

While often described as a “free trade agreement,” TPP, in fact, has little to do with trade. The deal, which was negotiated behind closed doors with help from hundreds of corporate advisers, would create radical new powers for the biggest multinationals. The idea is to boost profits for some by making it easier to off shore American jobs, gut environmental protections, sell unsafe imported food in the U.S. and bypass U.S. courts.

Specifically, TPP would grant thousands of multinational corporations new rights to sue the U.S. government before a panel of three corporate lawyers. These lawyers would be able to award the corporations unlimited sums of taxpayer money, including for the loss of expected future profits, and their rulings cannot be appealed. Foreign companies would only need to convince the lawyers that a U.S. law or environmental protection violates their new TPP rights.

The new rules would pose tangible risks to American lives and livelihoods by undermining our economic prospects as well as our health, safety and environmental laws. Under similar agreements, corporations have been able to sue governments to overturn minimum wage laws and worker and public safety regulations.

Both Republicans and Democrats are increasingly united in opposition to the TPP. For all their extreme differences, both are in agreement that the TPP is a bad deal.

But there’s a powerful coalition still fighting for the deal — including Washington’s most influential lobbyists. While Americans are rightly focused on the presidential election, we also need to focus on the post-election battle for our jobs, our environment and our democracy.

We must stop the TPP.

Ron Patenaude is the president of the Hampshire/Franklin Central Labor Council. Brian Morrison is the president of the Berkshire Central Labor Council. Fiore Grassetti is the president of the Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council.


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