The White House has been pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which it calls “the most progressive trade agreement in history.”
But rather than increasing protections for working Americans and the environment, the TPP undermines U.S. labor and environmental laws.
The U.S. Senate, including Texas Senators Cornyn and Cruz, recently voted to give President Obama “fast track authority” to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership in secret, with no public or Congressional input.
The Rio Grande Valley’s U.S. Representatives Hinojosa and Vela have said that they oppose fast track, and they deserve applause for taking that stance.
But Representative Cuellar recently penned an op-ed arguing in favor of TPP, saying “I have been a strong supporter of this partnership.”
Instead of shilling for multinational oil and gas corporations, Representative Cuellar should stand up for the working men and women who elected him, and air they breathe and the water they drink, and work to defeat “fast track” in the U.S. House.
More than 600 “corporate advisors,” representing multi-national corporations, have been involved in writing the TPP, but the general public has not been allowed to see what they have written. Members of Congress who read it can be prosecuted if they reveal its contents to the American public.
If this is such a great deal why aren’t we allowed to see it?
Last year a draft version was leaked, and its provisions would undermine workers, the environment, and the rule of law in the United States.
The TPP would allow private foreign corporations to sue sovereign nations for cash compensation, and to overturn any law that they claim would cut into their “expected future profits.”
For example, the Clean Air Act limits the amount of mercury, benzene, and other hazardous pollutants that a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal can emit upwind from an elementary school. But if that proposed LNG terminal is owned by a company from a TPP country, that company could sue the United States to overturn the law rather than limit its emissions.
Texas LNG, which wants to build an LNG export terminal less than two miles outside of Port Isabel, is partly owned by Samsung. Samsung is headquartered in South Korea, and South Korea will likely sign on to the TPP.
Multi-national corporations could also sue to overturn worker safety regulations that were intended to prevent their employees from being injured or poisoned on the job on the grounds that they incur cost, and therefore cut into “expected future profits.”
The ability of locals to have a say in whether an LNG export terminal is built in their community would also be curtailed. Currently the Department of Energy must determine whether or not a proposed LNG export terminal is in the public interest before it can be built. TPP would grant them automatic approval if their owners claim that the gas was destined for a country that has signed the treaty.
This is why Representatives Hinojosa and Vela have said that they oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and why Representative Cuellar should as well.
Under current law the deck is already stacked in these facilities’ favor. We should strengthen protections for workers and communities, not allow foreign corporations to overrule U.S. sovereignty and sweep away U.S. laws.
Representative Cuellar should reverse course and oppose “fast track” and the larger Trans Pacific Partnership, and fight to preserve laws that protect workers from injury and children from pollution.
Editor’s Note: The main photo accompanying this op-ed shows leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership member states and prospective member states at a TPP summit in 2010.