Unions Detail Opposition To Fast Track, TPP After Singapore Ministerial
Inside U.S. Trade
December 10, 2013
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The presidents of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and two AFL-CIO-affiliated unions today (Dec. 10) announced their opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as an agreement that would further erode U.S. jobs, but they made clear that their focus was also on fighting the possible renewal of fast-track trade negotiation authority.
“Before anything happens with TPP, we have to talk about fast track,” said Teamsters President James Hoffa. “The first fight is going to be fast-track.”
He noted that previous trade agreements have been a “disaster” for America in terms of leading to massive job losses. “We’ve tried to convince the administration to not pursue this line” of trade agreements, he said, and instead seek those that put Americans to work in the United States. “Unfortunately, this is not the goal of this administration,” he said.
Hoffa said his union was reaching out to Democrats and Republicans in Congress. “[W]e’re lobbying and talking to members of Congress, alerting them to the problem, telling them to stand up and vote against fast track,” he said. ” We’re talking not only to Democrats but we’re also talking to Republicans.”
He participated in a teleconference organized by Public Citizen along with Larry Cohen, the president of Communications Workers of America (CWA), and United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard. Also participating were Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY).
It followed the conclusion of the TPP ministerial in Singapore, which fell short of its goal to deliver a specific result. Instead, ministers announced they had made “substantial progress.”
Gerard also indicated his opposition to fast track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), stating that trade agreements should be decided with greater involvement by Congress, not “made in secret and then brought in for an up-or-down vote.” He added that “we’re going to do everything we can on fast track.”
Cohen of CWA said the union is opposed to both TPP and TPA. It is committed to mobilizing “tens of thousands of members” and is already doing this. “The key right now for us all is TPA,” he said.
He implied that these efforts are focused on shoring up the opposition to TPP and TPA expressed by 151 House members that signed a letter initiated by DeLauro and George Miller (D-CA). “We are totally mobilizing behind people like Rep. DeLauro and her letter, appreciating and encouraging those who signed on.”
The letter demanded that a new TPA create a stronger role for Congress in shaping trade agreements than previous versions of the law, partially because they have been effectively barred from providing input into the TPP negotiations (Inside U.S. Trade, Nov. 15).
The members signing that letter are also the target of a newly formed Friends of TPP caucus, said one of its co-chairs, Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), at a press conference last week (Inside U.S. Trade, Dec. 6).
CWA has also organized various anti-TPP protests around the country, including ones in San Diego, Calif., Leesburg, Va., and Addison, Texas, when the ministerial rounds were held there.
Cohen noted that in the past five years, the U.S. has been losing service sector jobs at the same pace manufacturing jobs. This includes 500,000 lost jobs in call centers alone, “virtually all of them to Southeast Asia,” he said. “And yet we behave [as if] somehow these these trade deals help us.”
CWA has earlier said that the call center job loss could be accelerated by a TPP provision that would guarantee the free flow of data across borders (Inside U.S. Trade, Aug. 23).
Gerard said the union would oppose TPP as it appears to mirror previous trade agreements under which the U.S. has last jobs and increased its trade deficit. “We’re not opposed to trade. We’re just opposed to trade that keeps giving away our jobs and giving away our future,” he said.
Hoffa signaled his opposition to TPP, but added that he would support the agreement if it included a “Buy American” procurement chapter, a labor chapter that allows workers to organize, an environmental chapter, no investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, and protections for food safety and family farmers. “These are things that have to be in any agreement.”
Both Hoffa and DeLauro expressed their disappointment that the TPP negotiations do not appear to be addressing currency manipulation. DeLauro noted that the majority of Congress called on the Obama administration to press for currency disciplines in the TPP in two separate letters sent earlier this year.
DeLauro and the other press conference participants took shots at the Obama administration and USTR for the secrecy surrounding the TPP talks. DeLauro again criticized the congressional co