Council to Congress: Trans Pacific Partnership Undermines Goals for Worker Rights, Environmental Standards

Home » Council to Congress: Trans Pacific Partnership Undermines Goals for Worker Rights, Environmental Standards

SEATTLE – In an open letter to members of Washington State’s Congressional delegation, Councilmember Mike O’Brien and his Council colleagues declared their opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and affirmed their support for practices that protect jobs, workers and the environment.

The letter, which is signed by all nine members of the Council, expressed both sensitivity to the State’s dependence on international trade, and a renewed commitment to reinforcing business cultures that value workers around the globe:

“Seattle has done a great deal of work to become a leader on environmental sustainability and social justice, such as committing to becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” said O’Brien.  “When I realized that the Trans Pacific Partnership as drafted would undermine Seattle’s ability to set policies consistent with our values, it became clear that we needed to categorically oppose the TPP.”

On March 30th, 2015 the City Council passed Resolution 31573 (LINK), expressing opposition to Track Promotion Authority (“Fast Track”) for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and reiterated their concerns over then-draft elements of the TPP. Because stated goals to protect American jobs, protect workers and protect our environment were not met, they at that time urged the state’s Congressional delegation to reject the TPP.

From their letter:  “…All eyes are on the United States to create trade practices that protect jobs, protect workers, protect the environment, include enforceable labor and environmental standards, and improve the quality of life in all signatory countries.  Since the TPP provisions as drafted do not accomplish the goals we outlined, we urge you to vote against the TPP.  If this does not pass, we have another chance to negotiate terms that meet our goals.”

Seattle has adopted some of the most progressive labor and environmental standards in the country, and the TPP, if approved, could significantly undermine these advances.  In the letter O’Brien and his colleagues underscore specific concerns:

  • Carbon Neutrality Goals Undermined: The City of Seattle is taking strong steps towards reaching our goal of being carbon neutral by 2050, but the TPP weakens conservation standards set in previous trade agreements and encourages the continued global dependence on fossil fuels.
  • S. Jobs Moved Overseas: Free trade acts in the past have hurt the United States’ workers by acting as a catalyst to move jobs overseas.  According to the Economic Policy Institute, NAFTA has led to 680,000 American jobs being lost domestically.  Based on the Department of Commerce data, the Labor Advisory Committee reports “the TPP will cost, at a minimum, 330,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector nation-wide.”
  • Undermining Workers Rights: We in the City support our workers by setting a phased-in minimum wage of $15 per hour. We believe livable wages and safety requirements should be paid to every worker.   By failing to strengthen international labor standards and failing to prevent currency manipulation, the TPP will make it easier for companies to ship American jobs overseas and disregard fair treatment for workers.
  • Reducing Incentives for Buy America: The current TPP text requires the U.S. government to treat TPP firms the same as domestic firms for purchasing decisions, even when “Buy American” or, in our state, “Buy Washington” rules apply.
  • Negative Impacts for Health Care: The TPP would extend pharmaceutical patents longer and into all countries involved, restricting access to cheaper lifesaving medicine.   The impact is to threaten people’s access to affordable medicine, which is why organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the Alliance for Retired Americans oppose it.
  • Impact on Medicaid Patients: Crucially to Seattle residents, TPP may also prevent Medicaid and Medicare from providing drug discounts to their low income patients, which runs counter to our country’s efforts to lower the cost of health care.

In closing, O’Brien and his colleagues write, “We do not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership as drafted, and urge you to vote against it when it comes before Congress for a vote.”

Once the Trans Pacific Partnership is formally submitted to Congress, members must vote on the agreement within 90 legislative days.