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Maui residents were right about the Trans-Pacific Partnership

By Staff | Oct 6, 2016

By all accounts, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a proposed trade pact between several countries involving many matters of economic policy – is dangerous and severely flawed.

In August 2015, while trade talks were being held on Maui, hundreds of local residents and representatives from international advocacy groups gathered on Kaanapali Beach to voice their strong opposition to the TPP.

They argued that the TPP would sacrifice fundamental protections for public health, the environment, local jobs and indigenous rights in order to benefit a few major corporations.

Protest organizers called the “partnership” a trade pact negotiated in secret between 12 nations around the Pacific Rim and 600 corporations. The 12 countries include the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada and Mexico.

The list of corporations include Walmart, Monsanto, Pfizer, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Dow Chemical.

The Maui protestors were ahead of their time on the TPP, the biggest trade agreement ever negotiated. After seven years of secret talks, the TPP only now has been made available to the public.

Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono (D), who is often quick to support President Obama and her party’s legislation, Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz and colleagues last week told the administration that the TPP should not be considered by Congress until it is renegotiated.

“Although we hear that every new trade deal is supposed to ‘level the playing field’ for workers, these agreements end up doing the opposite,” said Sen. Hirono.

“This is particularly true for Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company workers, who will lose their jobs after illegal subsidies on Mexican sugar irreparably damaged our domestic sugar industry.

“Congress should not consider an agreement as massive and far-reaching as the TPP until it has been renegotiated to ensure it protects American jobs, raises American wages and safeguards the environment.”

In a letter to President Obama, Sen. Hirono argued that passing the TPP in its current form will perpetuate a trade policy that advantages corporations at the expense of American workers.

“First and foremost, the agreement includes investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which means our country’s own public health, worker safety and environmental standards, among others, are vulnerable to corporate challenges,” she wrote.

Hirono also raised serious concerns that the TPP does not ban trade in goods made with forced or child labor; TPP parties are free to reduce worker safety protections and minimum wages, provided they do so economy-wide; there is no enforcement mechanism to ensure trading partners do not manipulate their currency exchange rates for export advantages; and the U.S. auto sector will be hurt by TPP’s rules of origin for autos, which will undermine the North American Free Trade Agreement’s rules; among other issues.

In summary, Hirono noted, “Passing TPP before these and other provisions are fixed will hasten the erosion of U.S. manufacturing and middle class jobs and accelerate the corporate race to the bottom.

“We urge you to work with our TPP partners to negotiate a trade agreement that stands up for American workers and grows our middle class.”

It is great to hear that Congress won’t even consider the TPP in its current form. It is puzzling why the administration would even propose a pact so damaging to U.S. workers.