To The Editor:
At this very moment, in the backrooms of Washington D.C., lobbyists from big, multinational businesses are hashing out a secretive trade deal that will hurt businesses and families right here in Queens. If this deal goes through, here are just a few changes we might see around town:
No more “Buy Local” or “Made in Queens” labeling on products – even a “Made in the USA” sticker might violate the terms of this trade deal; food safety regulations set by foreign countries that are far more lax than the ones we’re used to; more countries that can export to the U.S. free of tariffs, further threatening the livelihood of the local family farmers so important to Queens and to New York. This trade deal could allow foreign companies to sue local or state governments if they pass ordinations to protect the environment, such as New York State’s recently passed fracking ban. The deal might include provisions about copyright law and intellectual property that extend beyond the scope of U.S. law. If you’re on public assistance, new rules might prevent the government from offering subsidies that cut into big pharmaceutical company profits.
The trade deal in question, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has been called “NAFTA on steroids” by the nonprofit group Public Citizen. We all know what a disaster the North American Free Trade Agreement has been for American jobs and business. Now imagine a bigger, more expansive version of that same deal involving many more countries.
The worst part of it all isn’t even the TPP itself. It’s that, under a policy called “Trade Promotion Authority (TPA),” also known as “Fast Track,” we won’t even get to voice our concerns. If Fast Track is approved, Congress can only take an up-or-down vote on the completed package. Here’s how our elected representatives get to review the draft TPP’s 29 chapters (only 5 of which have anything to do with trade, by the way): they get to sit in a room by themselves with a copy of the draft legislation. They can’t make copies, they can’t bring their staff in – they can’t even take notes!
So whose voices are being heard? Corporate lobbyists – hundreds of them, the very same ones whose bosses will stand to benefit from the trade agreements if passed.
It’s not surprising that members of Congress most allied with those big businesses support fast-track. It might be surprising to some that our Democratic President also supports fast-track. It’s evidently been quite a long time since his community organizing days. But most liberals (and many conservatives) understand the dangers of Fast Track, no matter who’s president. So far, over 150 Democratic representatives have signed on to a letter expressing serious concern over the lack of involvement Congress has had in the TPP negotiations. The letter rightly reminds the President that the Constitution affords Congress the responsibility of setting US trade policy. Other lawmakers from Queens and New York State have not yet made their positions known. Be sure to call your representative to make sure they know you do understand this issue and you don’t support for Fast Track.
If we don’t raise our voices, Fast Track will become law, and the TPP will be ratified. Fast Track is bad for Queens and bad for democracy – a bad trade.
David Shmidt Chapman,