Your chance to officially tell the USTR what you think about the TPP

Your chance to officially tell the USTR what you think about the TPP

According to the Federal Register, the Office of the US Trade Representative announced on Dec. 28 that it “is seeking public comments on the impact of the TPP Agreement on U.S. employment, including labor markets.”

The open comment period extends until January 13, 2016.

It is critical that as many people as possible write to them about this. (In 2014, millions of public comments pouring into the FCC saved the Internet)

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Comments are submitted at www.regulations.gov (we suggest you open it in a new tab).
  2. Enter “USTR-2015-0012”  on the Home page and click “search” or you can go directly to the comment page using this link: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=USTR_FRDOC_0001-0366
  3. When you are taken to the comment page, click on “Comment now” on the right hand side. You will be taken to an open comment page.
  4. The www.regulations.gov website allows users to provide comments by filling in a “Type Comment” field, or by attaching a document using an “Upload File” field. USTR prefers that comments be provided in an attached document. If a document is attached, it is sufficient to type “See attached” in the “Type Comment” field. USTR prefers submissions in Microsoft Word (.doc) or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf). If the submission is in an application other than those two, please indicate the name of the application in the “Type Comment” field.
  5. Persons submitting written comments must do so in English and must identify (on the first page of the submission) “TPP Employment Impact Review.”
  6. Follow the prompts on the page to complete your comment (see the information and sample comment below).
  7. If you have problems, you can contact Yvonne Jamison of the USTR at (202) 395-3475.

Here is some information about the impact of the TPP on employment to help you:

  • Labor enforcement provisions are inadequate. According to Public Citizen, the TPP’s labor rights provisions largely replicate the terms included in past pacts since the “May 2007” reforms forced on then-president George W. Bush by congressional Democrats. A 2014 Government Accountability Office report found that these terms had failed to improve workers’ conditions. This includes in Colombia, which also was subjected to an additional Labor Action Plan similar to what the Obama administration has negotiated with Vietnam. When workers aren’t protected, this drives a global race to the bottom in worker rights and wages.
  • Offshore jobs. The TPP would make it easier for corporations to offshore jobs. The TPP includes investor protections that reduce the risks and costs of relocating production to low wage countries. The pro-free-trade Cato Institute considers these terms a subsidy on offshoring, noting that they lower the risk premium of relocating to venues that US firms might otherwise consider.
  • Lower wages. The TPP would push down our wages by throwing workers in the US into competition with Vietnamese workers making less than 65 cents an hour. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) estimates that wages will fall for most workers in the US as a result of the TPP.
  • Bans buy America. Government contracts have to treat foreign bidders as equal with US companies. This means that preference cannot be given to local producers or service providers. Within three years, this wil extend to the local level which will impact the growing local economy movement.
  • Insourcing. The TPP will allow entry for more foreign workers and their families into the US. This displaces US workers from jobs. And there is the possibility that foreign workers may be paid lower wages than US workers, which would drive wages down for everyone.
  • Minimal impact on GDP. CEPR estimates that the positive impact on US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a result of the TPP is 0.013%, which is negligible.
  • No increase in jobs. Fact Checker finds that in the long run, the TPP will create zero new jobs.
  • Legal challenges. Foreign firms operating in the US will have greater rights under law than US corporations. Under the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions, foreign firms can sue if US laws interfere with their profits. This includes laws such as rises in minimum wage, worker and environmental protections and more. And they can sue for loss of expected future profits. We’ve already seen that such challenges lead governments to repeals laws that protect health and safety rather than having to pay huge fines.
  • Increased trade deficit. According to a report by Public Citizen, 21 years of experience with trade agreements show that they cause huge trade deficits that lead to lost jobs and lower wages.
  • External factors that are not considered. The TPP is a broad agreement that goes way beyond issues of trade. It will impact the cost of health care (raising it), protection of the environment (doesn’t protect it, which has real impacts on human health), the climate crisis (will prevent steps to mitigate climate change which will create high costs due to weather and rising sea levels, etc) and financial stability (will deregulate finance leaving us vulnerable to economic crashes). These impacts on health, the climate crisis and the economy will affect workers in negative ways.

Here is a sample comment: (you can copy and paste it into your word document and edit as you see fit  – by possibly adding a personal story of how agreements in the past or the TPP will impact you – before saving it and sending it to the USTR as an attachment)

TPP Employment Impact Review

The provisions of the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) go further than previous agreements in making it easier to outsource jobs as well as allowing insourcing through workers coming to the United States.

Previous trade agreements have a universal, consistent history when it comes to labor markets: the US loses more jobs than it gains, wages go down, worker rights are not protected and trade deficits rise. As a result, trade agreements have cost the United States millions of jobs.

In 2015, after only three years, the US-Korea trade agreement, which President Obama touts as an improvement over NAFTA and a modern 21st Century trade agreement, lost 85,000 jobs. Perhaps the most common false statement about trade agreements is that they create jobs when the opposite is true.

Regarding the TPP, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) estimates that wages will fall for most workers in the US as a result of the TPP while having a negligible impact of 0.013% growth of the GDP.

The TPP adds a new jobs problem by allowing foreign corporations to bring employees into the United States even if a US worker could do the job. Further, it makes the labor market worse by stopping government programs that encourage domestic jobs, e.g. the Buy American program and giving foreign corporations greater legal protection for their profits inside the US than before.

As a consumer I have been dismayed at the rising rate of cheap imports that are made by poorly compensated and often abused workers. The products are often shoddy. I would rather pay fair wages to American workers for products that will endure. In so doing I believe we not only lift up our own people and our own communities, but we lift up the rest of the world by no longer being a party to predatory labor practices abroad.

All in all, the TPP is bad for workers and must be stopped. The world needs trade agreements that raise worker protections instead of driving a race to the bottom.