WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, the Sierra Club hosted a telepresser with five Members of Congress voicing concerns of and expectations for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Ilana Solomon, the director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, moderated the call with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Congressman George Miller of California, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California, Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, and Congressman Steve Israel of New York.
The Members expressed their concerns leading up to this weekend’s high-level ministerial meeting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Singapore. While the goal of the meeting is to announce that a final deal has been reached, there are many key issues that remain unresolved, including some issues that have been longtime bottom lines from Congress, which the Members outlined today.
One of the key issues yet to be resolved in the trade pact is around currency manipulation, the process by which countries reduce the value of their currency in order to encourage exports.
“Currency manipulation has expanded the U.S. trade deficit and cost us jobs,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. “Several countries involved in the TPP negotiations have a history of or are currently manipulating their exchange rates to promote their exports at the expense of American workers. Congress has made clear that currency disciplines are critical to leveling the playing field for American workers and that not including them in the TPP would be a slap in the face to those workers. Any deal announced that does not address this issue is not a deal in the eyes of Congress, which has the final say when it comes to trade.”
Members of Congress also expressed concern that American workers will be left in the dust if strong and binding labor standards are not included in the new trade pact.
“If the United States doesn’t insist on stronger, enforceable worker protections in the TPP, American workers will pay the price as more jobs are moved offshore and countries provide ever-fewer protections in a global race to the bottom,” said Congressman George Miller. “Past trade deals have given lip service to protecting workers, while allowing conditions on the ground to deteriorate. This time, labor protections need to be integrated into the TPP itself, not put in a side deal, in order to make international human rights a concrete reality for more people around the world.”
One of the many controversial chapters of the trade pact explicitly deals with environmental rules. While the U.S. has pushed for strong environmental standards in this chapter, the countries in the pact have not yet settled on final, enforceable rules.
“Over the last decade, I’ve been working to transform U.S. trade policy into more than just a means to eliminating trade barriers, but as a tool for improving the environmental protections among our trading partners through enforceable, meaningful standards,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer. “The Trans-Pacific Partnership must include robust and binding environmental provisions that conserve forests, oceans, and wildlife. TPP must build on the 2007 May 10th framework, and that’s exactly what USTR has proposed, but they cannot back down. Our forests, oceans and wildlife depend on it.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership will also deal with copyright terms for all signatory countries in the controversial “international property” chapter.
“We’ve expressed concern in the past that these trade agreements really are at the expense of consumer rights, fair use, and the public domain and it doesn’t look like they’ve been resolved,” said Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. “This is something that is backdooring, through a trade agreement, that which could not be obtained in Congress. I think we all remember SOPA – the Stop Online Piracy Act – it looks like there are some elements of SOPA that are being inserted into this trade agreement and I don’t think the American people are going to put up with it.”
Amid all these concerns, trade ministers from the 12 nations will meet in Singapore on Saturday to discuss completing the trade pact.
Listen to a recording of the telepresser here: http://www.conferenceplayback.com/stream/66218019/74193201.mp3