By Richard Danielson in The Tampa Bay Times
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has one opinion about the massive and controversial international trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Now the City Council has another, voting Thursday to pass a resolution urging Congress to reject the trade deal, often shorthanded to TPP,
The resolution, drafted on the motion of council chairman Frank Reddick, says the Trans-Pacific Partnership “fails to sufficiently ensure that countries will not undercut U.S.-based producers with weaker labor and environmental laws and enforcement” and “does nothing to discourage U.S. manufacturers from moving their factories to TPP countries with weak climate regulations.”
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership as presented will not create jobs, protect the environment or ensure safe imports,” the proposed resolution says. “Its passage will not strengthen our economy, nor reduce income inequality, nor promote sustainable growth, nor serve to improve the lives of all of our citizens.”
Several residents agreed. One asked the council to send a message not only to Congress, but to the mayor.
“I would like you to remind him that if he loses his base and doesn’t pay attention to his voting base, what would happen to him if he runs for another office,” said Jim Froonjian, 68, a retired union electrician who lives near Busch Gardens. “For instance, what happened to Marco Rubio a couple of days ago.”
Retired postal worker David Bernstein, 80, questioned whether TPP could make prescription drugs less accessible and more expensive by extending patent protections for name-brand pharmaceuticals.
“Will the drug-pricing provisions give foreign pharmaceutical companies more leverage to force Medicare to cover their products and pay higher prices for them?” Bernstein said. “Yes, we think they will. There’s a lack of transparency here and a bad deal for all Americans.”
Before the meeting, Buckhorn said the council was within its rights to take a stand, but it had no bearing on his support.
“I doubt that any of them have read the bill, so they may not be aware of the positive aspects of it,” said Buckhorn, who supports TPP and who has volunteered to speak on its behalf for the Obama administration and promoted it during an interview with National Public Radio on Monday. (And, yes, Buckhorn says he has read it.)
“Obviously, they don’t speak for the city,” Buckhorn said. “If they do it … it would be the City Council’s position but not the city’s.”
That’s right, said Reddick, who said the resolution would merely be an expression of the council’s view. Unlike some resolutions, this one doesn’t have a line for the mayor to sign, since his position on the other side is so well-known.
Reddick said he, too, has read the proposal, as well as a “stack of documents” on TPP that he got from labor leaders who asked him what he thought and whether the council would consider taking a position.
“It came from me having to speak to several union organizations, and they made it known to me they had a concern about it,” Reddick said. Based on his reading, he had no objection to asking his council colleagues to consider a resolution of opposition. The unions provided the language for the resolution, which he said was drafted by City Council attorney Martin Shelby. “This is an issue that’s getting reaction from a lot of people.”
The council’s vote was 7-0, though Lisa Montelione wanted to wait a week so she could read the agreement.