Earlier this month, after the long holiday break and the close of a bitter year of partisan brinkmanship in Washington, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014, was quietly introduced in both chambers of Congress. Widely known as the TPP, the bill grants the President fast-track authority to approve a multi-lateral trade agreement with several Pacific nations, including Canada, Mexico, Malaysia and Vietnam with the hope that China, Japan and Korea would join in the near future. If fully enacted, the trade agreement would be the largest of its kind, impacting nearly 80% of the world’s economy, and would erode governments’ ability to enact and enforce rules and regulations that would protect workers and the environment from exploitation in favor of facilitating international trade.
Outgoing U.S. Senator and future Ambassador to China, Max Baucus (D – Montana) filed the legislation in the Senate, while David Camp (R- MI) is sponsoring President Obama’s legislative priority in the House of Representatives. Not a single Democrat in the House has yet joined to co-sponsor the bill .
Negotiated in secret over the last four years by U.S. Trade Representative (and former mayor of Dallas), Ron Kirk — who recently left the government for work at Gibson Dunn, a corporate law firm in Dallas — details of the agreement have only been revealed to the public through leaked documents. However, nearly 400 corporate executives have had access to drafts of the agreement throughout the negotiations, including companies like Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, WalMart, GE and Halliburton. Environment, labor, agriculture and human rights advocates were never invited to the table to be a part of the negotiations.
Just last week, the website, Wikileaks released the environmental chapter of the draft agreement, revealing that the TPP would even roll back environmental standards recently created by Congress for multilateral trade agreements. Additionally, many environmentalists are concerned that the trade agreement would greatly facilitate Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) exports right at a crucial time when we need international and national leaders to take steps to curb the emissions that cause climate change, not enhance them.
Growth in LNG exports would also have an impact on Texas directly, creating additional markets for natural gas obtained through fracking – a largely unregulated drilling method that has been a nuisance to communities across the state.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club commented on the leaked draft, “If the environment chapter is finalized as written in this leaked document, President Obama’s environmental trade record would be worse than George W. Bush’s. This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues – oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections – and in fact, rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts.”
The Lone Star Chapter is teaming-up with a coalition of labor groups in the state to push our Texas members of Congress to vote ‘No’ on the TPP – which is expected to come to a vote early next month. The recent public outcry over the trade proposal is putting the fate of TPP into jeopardy. We need your help today. Please use the Sierra Club’s Action page to contact your member of Congress, or simply call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard – (202) 224-3121. Tell your Representative to take a stand for the environment, American sovereignty and the public’s right to self-determination, and vote No.