Council Opposes Fast Track Consideration of International Trade Deal Directly Impacting Trade-Dependent Seattle

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Council Opposes Fast Track Consideration of International Trade Deal Directly Impacting Trade-Dependent Seattle

SEATTLE – City Council adopted a resolution today opposing Trade Promotion Authority, more commonly known as “fast track” consideration, of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) regional trade pact between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries.  The resolution also expresses the Council’s concerns about draft elements of the proposed agreement and expresses support for fair trade practices and agreements that protect American jobs, maintain enforceable labor and environmental standards, and preserve the sovereignty of America’s judicial system.

The Council’s resolution expresses concern with the closed-door manner in which the agreement is being brokered. Unlike other international trade deals, the proposal has not been available to the public or state or local elected officials. Further, fast track authority could limit Congressional representatives’ ability to adequately review, debate and amend the TPP, which could impact Seattle in numerous ways. Council is instead urging that the President and Congress conduct a fully transparent and inclusive legislative process for consideration of the TPP.

Council also opposed provisions of the agreement itself.  In a January 2015 draft of the proposal, released via WikiLeaks, provisions are included that could give multinational corporations the power to undermine local governmental authority to create reasonable rules and regulations, including those related to environmental safeguards, future climate policy, and food safety standards. Provisions would allow foreign companies to challenge American laws by skipping the United States judicial system and instead going before an international panel of arbitrators. Seattle’s environmental standards, labor laws, or even the minimum wage could be challenged, and the international panel would be empowered to collect damages from American taxpayers.

Councilmember Mike O’Brien, the resolution’s co-sponsor, said, “I am pro-trade. And I believe the U.S. can negotiate truly progressive trade deals. But I oppose Fast Track for the TPP because Seattle has some of the highest environmental and labor standards in the country, and it is critical that multinational corporations do not have the power to undermine our laws or values.”

Councilmember Kshama Sawant, the resolution’s co-sponsor, said, “Few things counterpose the interests of multinational corporations to the interests of workers, the environment, and democracy as sharply as trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It has been just over a year since my office first drafted a resolution opposing the TPP. Today, I am excited to support environmental activists, labor unions and social justice organizations that have brought to light what big business always intended to be a secret trade treaty.”

“International trade is vitally important to Seattle’s economy,” said Council President Tim Burgess. “The City Council strongly supports trade done right – trade that improves quality of life in all signatory countries, protects workers, enforces environmental standards, and maintains our judicial system and local regulatory authority. We’re asking our federal government for an updated and transparent process that can lead to an agreement that upholds these values.”

The City of Seattle and the State of Washington are two of the most economically trade-dependent cities and states, respectively, in the country. Seattle is home to the Port of Seattle, the Trade Development Alliance, and scores of internationally-successful companies employing Seattleites, which heightened the Council’s interest in the TPP and the fast track authority in which the agreement is being considered for adoption. 

Washington is a trade-dependent state, in which at least 40% of jobs are directly or indirectly related to international trade, and in the last decade Washington exports grew 176 percent, from $29.6 billion in 2004 to $81.6 billion in 2013.  The City of Seattle strongly supports international fair trade practices and agreements that foster economic growth and high standards for labor, the environment and public health.  Council is urging that, if the TPP doesn’t adequately address those principles, our Congressional delegation vote the reject the agreement.

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