March 12, 2015
By NYC Councilman Vincent Gentile
In the middle of the night, under the cloak of darkness, in a smoky backroom somewhere deep underground, the United States is hammering out a deal with Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and Brunei to create the largest trade agreement ever.
Together, these countries represent nearly 40 percent of total global economic activity. And while the American people are being purposely kept in the dark, major corporations are being made privy to details of the agreement as it unfolds.
No, this isn't a movie, its real life. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is on the verge of becoming the largest trade agreement in history. The TPP masquerades as a "free-trade" agreement when in reality its designed to make it even easier for colossal corporations to ship American jobs overseas by dismantling organized labor, undercutting workers' rights and shirking environmental regulations. As negotiations currently stand, there are grave concerns that the passage of the TPP would ban "Buy American" and "Buy Local" efforts by U.S. industries, which would put goods and services created in New York at a serious competitive disadvantage.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership countries claim that their deal will "enhance trade and investment, promote innovation, economic growth and development, and support the creation and retention of jobs," when in reality all signs point to the deal doing the exact opposite. But it doesn't end there. Now the same corporations who would benefit from the TPP feel these clandestine negotiations aren't moving fast enough. So in order to ram their deal through congress, its proponents require a special voting procedure called "fast track," which calls for a rapid vote on the deal with no possible amendments and extremely limited debate and deliberation.
If a bunch of countries are getting to together to make game-changing decisions about jobs, workers' rights and environmental standards, shouldn't the people have a say? Shouldn't we at least be aware of what's being discussed before a decision is made? I don't know about you but I smell a big, fat, rat.
The attack on American workers and corporate America's campaign to destroy the labor movement is nothing new. Every day it seems another member of the House of Representatives drafts legislation looking to make life even easier for the rich and powerful. I think it's time we stood up and said: no more. As it is, the middle-class is being squeezed to death as corporations continue to undermine the ability of Americans to organize to demand better pay, benefits, and working conditions. The TPP would send us over the edge.
Remember NAFTA? The U.S. economy lost nearly 700,000 jobs because of NAFTA. And people are calling the TPP "NAFTA on steroids." Remember KORUS, the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement? Instead of increasing U.S. exports and supporting American jobs, we lost 40,000 American jobs in KORUS's first year. What's the saying about those who do not learn history being doomed to repeat it?
Instead of secret treaties behind closed doors, let's focus on building an economy that lifts up all Americans. Instead of offering tax incentives for corporations that outsource, let's encourage growth and job creation by rewarding companies that open new factories, train new workers and create and keep jobs here in America. Let's provide more tax breaks for small businesses and invest in a clean-energy economy while putting Americans to work rebuilding our aging infrastructure. That's how we'll build an economy that works for everyone and not just the privileged few.
*** Councilman Vincent Gentile is the Democratic candidate for the 11th Congressional District seat in a special election – Staten Island and southern Brooklyn.