Congress must defeat the TPP

The main problems with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) can be simply stated. It has been negotiated in secret. It would have us do more business through competition with several low-wage, undemocratic countries that we know abuse human and labor rights. And it would cost Americans their jobs and reduce wages.

Since the conclusion of the negotiations one month ago, the administration has been traveling around the country talking about the alleged benefits of the agreement. Yet, can members of Congress read the text to get all the necessary information? No, because the administration has failed to release one word of it.

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Unfortunately, secrecy has been a hallmark of this process from the very beginning.

The administration promised members of Congress access to the text but has left us in the dark on the most critical changes. The U.S. Trade Representative’s new chief transparency officer has not enlightened us. Given the myriad issues with the agreement, it is not difficult to imagine why the administration has taken this approach.

In 2007, my Democratic colleagues in this chamber forced the Bush administration to renegotiate a number of trade agreements to include enhanced labor standards in the core text. In the eight years since, neither the
current administration nor its predecessor has taken meaningful action to enforce those provisions. And so dozens of Colombian union organizers are being murdered, despite labor provisions in the U.S.-Colombia free-trade agreement. Thousands of acres of Peruvian forest are being destroyed, despite environmental provisions in the U.S.-Peru trade deal.

Why would we assume that the TPP will be any different when it comes to Brunei’s persecution of LGBT people, Malaysia’s human trafficking or Vietnam’s abundant use of child labor? Even without reading the text, we can predict the result: failure.

Already, The Wall Street Journal is projecting a $56 billion increase in our
manufacturing and automotive trade deficit under the TPP by 2025. Trade deficits not only bring down our nation’s gross domestic product, they are directly associated with the loss of jobs. As the Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Robert Scott has written, it is our nation’s trade policy, not technological productivity, that has precipitated the dramatic loss of manufacturing jobs over the last 15 years.

Vietnam is slated to be one of the biggest beneficiaries under the TPP through an enormous increase in manufacturing and agricultural exports, which the Vietnamese government is projecting will result in economic growth of $33.5 billion over 10 years. And the potential job loss in the U.S. is not limited to manufacturing. Malaysia has a large English-speaking population and would be a primary target for high-tech and call center job exports.

Prior agreements that the TPP is based on tell a grim tale. The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement cost this country 75,000 jobs in just three years, according to the EPI. The TPP will be even worse. It constitutes 40 percent of the global economy; it will throw Americans into competition with Vietnamese workers making less than 65 cents per hour. These provisions will offshore jobs, lower our wages and increase income inequality. American workers have seen this happen to them year after year after year.

Like with every previous trade agreement, the TPP does nothing to curb currency manipulation, which allows countries to keep the price of their goods artificially low. This abuse has contributed to the loss of up to 5 million jobs, according to the Peterson Institute.

After the U.S. entered into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Mexican devaluation of the peso muted the export benefits to the U.S. under the agreement’s terms. This resulted in the record explosion in the U.S.-Mexico trade deficit and ensured the loss of thousands of American manufacturing jobs across the southern border. The U.S. has not experienced a trade surplus with Mexico in the two decades since.

One of the biggest manipulators, historically, is Japan, a member of the TPP. The administration has even floated the idea of adding China, probably the worst currency manipulator in history. China’s August devaluation of the yuan cost up to 640,000 American jobs, according to the EPI. And after the administration decided to take no action against China, TPP partner Vietnam followed suit and devalued its own currency.

President Obama has said that the TPP “reflects America’s values.” The TPP does not reflect American values. It has put corporate special interests before the interests of the American people. Instead of learning from past experience, we are being railroaded into yet another trade agreement that risks our jobs, our wages and the health of our families. But under the law there is still time for Congress to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership. For the sake of working people all over America, that is what we should do.

DeLauro has represented Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District since 1991. She sits on the Appropriations Committee.