In conference at Yale Law School, DeLauro pushes to stop controversial Trans Pacific Partnership
New Haven Register
NEW HAVEN >> U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, said the administration will be “relentless” in its pursuit of a positive vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership in the lame duck Congress, something she and a coalition in Congress are hoping to stop.
DeLauro delivered the keynote address at a conference at the Yale Law School on the trade pact sponsored by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.
“This is not a knee-jerk reaction to a trade agreement,” DeLauro said of the 2½ years of inquiry and opposition to the pact from congressional members.
She said it was hard to understand why President Barack Obama continues to support it despite the sustained opposition among Democrats in Congress, as well as by some 200 legal experts, labor leaders and, now, the two main presidential candidates.
Lori Wallach, an author and expert on trade, said the thinking among administration officials is that they have put too much time into this.
“Either we pass this, or we look like losers,” Wallach said is the attitude, regardless of its shortcomings, as Obama looks to include it in his legacy.
DeLauro said she anticipates more free rides on Air Force One, visits to the White House and special events in the congressional members’ districts as the arm-twisting escalates.
“(T)he agreement is undemocratic in its drafting, undemocratic in its contents and it cannot be passed during an unaccountable lame duck period,” she told Yale Law students and staff in attendance.
DeLauro said traditional trade pacts used to be about lowering tariffs and removing quotas, but not anymore.
She said this pact attempts to normalize regulations across a trade zone, which is not an inherently bad idea except that it is one-sided with the benefits accruing to the corporate interests that put it together.
DeLauro said the TPP was developed in secrecy except for the 500 corporate lawyers, according to the Washington Post, who were given access to the text that required security clearance for any congressional staffer to read.
“(L)abor, civil society and members of Congress were left in the dark. … The outcomes skew almost entirely in favor of the deals corporate authors,” DeLauro said.
She said this has been the pattern for the past three decades since NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), which gave new rights “to foreign investors and incentives to offshore infrastructure to Mexico while providing little benefit to the workers and communities left behind.”
The congresswoman said one of the most alarming aspects of these deals, including the TPP, is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system, which allows foreign corporations to sue the U.S. before private tribunals operated by lawyers who have dual roles: judging the cases and representing special interests.
She said already, TransCanada has sued the U.S. for $15 billion after the administration rejected the Keystone XL pipeline.
DeLauro, quoting Doctors Without Borders, said TPP will end up creating new monopolies on existing medicine, including cancer treatments, by extending patents beyond two decades for pharmaceuticals.
Wallach said DeLauro is the main organizer against the trade pact, which she did by going to the subject experts in Congress and getting support one topic at a time.
DeLauro said the International Trade Commission has said the TPP would accelerate loss of manufacturing production in the United States.
She said this commission, in the past, has sometimes been overly optimistic in its projected outcomes for trade agreements. In 1993, it said the U.S. would gain a $10.6 billion trade surplus under NAFTA. DeLauro said the reality is the U.S. now has a $60 billion trade deficit attributed to this deal.
DeLauro said the pacts have failed to incorporate enforceable currency manipulation rules. She said under NAFTA, devaluation of the peso erased the export benefits to the U.S.
The congresswoman said the benefits of TPP will begin on day one for signatory countries.
She said instead, the pact should incentivize compliance with labor, human rights and environmental standards for countries with poor records before they reap benefits of TPP.
DeLauro is particularly concerned with the safety of seafood imports from Southeast and South Asia, given that the federal Department of Agriculture inspects less than 2 percent of seafood coming to our borders.
She said it is known that many shipments from these areas, particularly shrimp, are contaminated with “feces, banned antibiotics, illegal drugs and pesticides.”
She said the TPP will allow Vietnam and Malaysia to challenge U.S. inspection decisions.
“This will have a chilling effect on aggressive food safety enforcement by our customs officials,” DeLauro said.
Since the U.S. started inspecting Vietnamese catfish in May, she said 40,000 pounds have been stopped from entering the country and another 26,000 pounds have been recalled from American markets.
DeLauro said the first global disruption occurred in the Industrial Revolution, which showed the need for progressive policies to protect workers.
She said the U.S. grew to be the most powerful economic force in the world when it coupled “progressive standards” with international trade rules after World War II. DeLauro said this is what is needed going forward.
Her recommendation to private citizens is to put pressure on those members of Congress who want to vote on the pact during the lame duck session.
“Congress is an institution that responds to external pressure,” she said.
The conference, “Transforming the Global Economic Order: Understanding Critical Perspectives on the TPP,” held two panel discussions on it later in the afternoon after DeLauro spoke.