Teamsters pose last year with other foes of fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty
after presenting a petition of opposition to Sen. Ron Wyden, who is a key backer of TPP.
Key congressional Republicans and Democrats have come to agreement
about legislation giving President Obama authority to finish negotiations with 11 other nations on a trade deal. Under "fast track" authority, Congress could vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership once negotiations are completed, but could not amend the deal. It would, however, have a say over negotiating objectives and ground rules.
Just one big problem for President Obama, who has worked hard to make the TPP a reality: Opposition is immense and support weak among Democrats. The number of House Democrats who favor fast-tracking authority is reportedly in the low two-digit range, possibly fewer than 20. Speaker John Boehner has in the past said at least 50 Democrats are needed to pass fast-tracking.
Grassroots opposition has been building for years and has been boosted recently by leaks from Wikileaks of draft language of parts of the trade deal that kowtow to corporate decision-making. Several leading Democrats oppose the legislation. Sander Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is against it. So is Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate's No. 3 Democrat. Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania opposes it, as does Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who said:
“Our trade deals amount to corporate handouts and worker sellouts. [American Workers’] ability to compete has been hamstrung by NAFTA-style trade deals. Trade done right creates prosperity—a leveling the playing field for all companies, strengthening the middle class and lifting workers from poverty. But we cannot allow another trade deal negotiated in secret to shortchange our workers and ship jobs overseas. The last thing we need is another NAFTA.”
Approved by Congress in 1993, NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, split the Democratic Party then and debate over the treaty's impacts continues today.
Well-known congressional lawmakers are hardly the only foes of fast-tracking and the TPP itself. Environmental advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club, civil liberties groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and labor organizations almost across the board are fighting to defeat fast-tracking. Jonathan Weisman reports:
The A.F.L.-C.I.O. and virtually every major union—convinced that trade promotion authority will ease passage of trade deals that will cost jobs and depress already stagnant wages—have vowed a fierce fight. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. announced a “massive” six-figure advertising campaign to pressure 16 selected senators and 36 House members to oppose fast-track authority.
You'll be in good company by signing and sending a petition: No fast-track for TPP
“We can’t afford to pass fast track, which would lead to more lost jobs and lower wages,” said Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “We want Congress to keep its leverage over trade negotiations—not rubber-stamp a deal that delivers profits for global corporations, but not good jobs for working people.”