By Alan Weinerman
An Open Letter to U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley:
As a constituent of yours in Astoria, I hope you will soon announce that you will be voting against President Obama’s proposed free trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which rumor has it may come up for a vote in the “lame duck” session of Congress. I also encourage you to oppose holding the vote itself in the lame duck session, when our elected officials may no longer feel the pressure of needing to get re-elected when they cast their vote.
The TPP is a huge trade deal involving 12 countries. Our previous “free trade deals” starting with Bill Clinton’s NAFTA have cost millions of jobs to Americans, and it is estimated that at least 450,000 more jobs will be lost if TPP passes. The deal will also endanger all our environmental and safety laws, labor protections, food safety protections, and even could prevent us from banning fracking, the now proven to be very dangerous and toxic method of extracting natural gas. To me, the most dangerous part of the deal is what is called the Investor-State Dispute Resolution mechanism, which allows corporations to sue over any environmental, labor or food safety laws that limit their ability to amass profits.
As in all previous free trade deals, these dispute resolutions are ruled upon by a secret trade tribunal of unelected people, usually representatives of the same type of corporations that are bringing the suit…and almost all the disputes in the past have, of course, been decided in favor of the corporate complainant. Most Americans have not been informed about this grossly undemocratic facet of “free-trade” agreements, which seem designed to lift corporate rule above national sovereignty. Even our food safety laws can be attacked as “illegal trade barriers” under the TPP, and the TPP would allow oil and gas companies to challenge local fracking bans.
I am a volunteer member of the New York section of Food and Water Watch, a nationwide organization fighting such unhealthy practices as fracking. We took part in the movement to ban fracking in New York (thank you, Gov. Cuomo!) We also supported efforts to pass a bill that would have forced companies to label the GMOs contained in our food…until President Obama recently signed what we call the “Dark Act,” which prohibits states from requiring GMO labeling and the TPP would enable companies to challenge any other GMO labeling laws. One might wonder why our president favors such corporate boondoggles.
Even Hillary Clinton has come out against the TPP. She had been a strong supporter of previous free trade deals, including her husband’s NAFTA, so if she’s opposing this one, it must be pretty bad! Many thanks to you, Rep. Crowley, for your previous vote against “fast tracking” this horrific trade deal, which unfortunately Obama managed to get approved. So now no amendments can be offered, such as one that could do away with the worst aspects of the deal, like the investor dispute mechanism. The vote will now be up or down, no changes allowed. I, and many other constituents, are expectantly hoping you will lend your influential voice and leadership against this awful undemocratic deal.