The Trans-Pacific Partnership bill is one of the strangest partisan conflicts of the day.
President Obama strongly urges passage of the bill, but he’ll need Republicans to do it. Not many Senators or Congressmen from his own party support the TPP. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton infamously flipped to oppose the bill, after praising it for years, in part because Big Labor hates it.
The full text of the TPP agreement was released to the public on Thursday, giving legislators a chance to openly comment on many of its provisions for the first time. The White House is counting heavily on environmental provisions in the law to win over some Democrats. Politico reports Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) declaring that these provisions “look pretty strong to me,” providing “a pretty powerful tool” for protecting fisheries, halting deforestation, and cracking down on wildlife trafficking.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman touted the muscle put behind existing endangered-species conventions by setting up possible trade sanctions for violators. “We’ve actually gone beyond that in wildlife trafficking,” he said. “Not only does TPP cover endangered species, but it covers wildlife that has been illegally taken under the laws of another country. It may not be endangered, but now countries also have an obligation to combat and to prevent wildlife taken illegally from another country.”
Politico notes that environmental groups are actually divided on their opinion of the TPP’s provisions, with full-throated praise from the World Wildlife Fund, Nature Conservancy, Rainforest Alliance, World Animal Protection, and International Fund for Animal Welfare, but skepticism or outright hostility from groups such as the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and National Resources Defense Counsel.
Some of this hostility is due to the TPP’s support for exporting natural gas obtained through fracking, which remains a hobgoblin of environmentalist groups. Other environmentalists complain that the bill doesn’t contain enough provisions related to “climate change,” and in fact never even uses that phrase.
The White House is also trying to soften organized labor’s opposition to the bill, or at least woo a few Democrats who might otherwise respect Big Labor’s demands to vote against it. This effort was not off to a promising start on Thursday, as International Business Times reported labor advocates and some Democrat politicians saying that worker protections and labor standards in the bill were not enforceable. For example, the Teamsters snorted that Vietnam was given five long years to comply with labor standards… using a Twitter hashtag called #TPPWorseThanWeThought.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) jumped into the same hashtag to slam the TPP for lacking “enforceable human rights rules” for “human traffickers Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) was also highly critical of these labor measures.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) hopped aboard the #TPPWorseThanWeThought hashtag Thursday morning to declare the bill’s chapter on e-commerce “undermines consumer privacy for sensitive personal data (health, financial, and more.)
United Steelworkers declared itself “unalterably opposed to the TPP because it’s a dagger twisting in the heart of American manufacturing,” in a statement quoted by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
Influential activists vowed to keep Democrats united against the trade bill. “The TPP is a disaster for jobs, and environment and our democracy. It is the latest stage in the corporate capture of our society,” declared Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now. “The good news is this can still be stopped. We’ll be doing all we can to support the huge swathe of trade unions, campaigners, activists and consumer groups in all those countries fighting TPP in the coming months.”
“Now that we can read the final TPP text, it’s obvious why it was kept in total secrecy for so long: this agreement is a wish list for powerful special interests and multinational corporations,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, in a statement quoted by the Fiscal Times. “The Intellectual Property chapter confirms our worst [fears] about the TPP’s impact on our basic right to express ourselves and access information on the Internet. If U.S. Congress signs this agreement despite its blatant corruption, they’ll be signing a death warrant for the open Internet and putting the future of free speech in peril.”
Hillary Clinton’s putative rival for the Democrat presidential nomination still doesn’t have anything good to say about the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the details were released. “I’m glad that Hillary Clinton is now against the TPP. Check my record out. I knew from Day One – in terms of NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China – that our trade policies were a disaster for American workers,” Senator Bernie Sanders declared on Thursday.
The Hill quotes Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), who has voted in support of the bill, warning that timing of the final votes must be “exquisitely managed,” because if it’s not passed before April – probably with a rather embarrassing minority of Democrats in favor – the vote could end up “in our primary season, and that’s a problem.”