Controversy surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement prompted Santa Cruzans to voice their sentiments through a public discussion.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) set up a meeting to discuss TPP’s impacts at the Quaker Meeting Center on Oct. 15. TPP is a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other countries that has been in the works since 2008.
The U.S. has since participated in 19 rounds of negotiations concerning many factors of the trade agreement, including labor rights, food security, environmental issues and many others. Negotiations are ongoing and held in secret, which contribute to the controversy around the agreement.
The discussion was led by Randa Solic of WILPF and former mayor and UCSC retired professor Mike Rotkin of the American Federation of Teachers. The primary concerns were that the TPP carries the threat of national job loss by the exportation of industry to countries where labor is less expensive.
Information from a leaked draft of the TPP revealed the possibility that transnational companies may be given certain economic powers that could overrule the rights of American businesses and people.
“It might supersede our [local] environmental regulations and our labor laws,” Solic said. “It won’t be the local or state government that can make these laws anymore, but they can be sued if we somehow undercut the [transnational corporation’s] profit.”
The speakers addressed how the TPP could directly affect Santa Cruz by presenting the possibility of job loss due to the exportation of work opportunities.
“Fifteen hundred jobs is a lot of jobs in Santa Cruz,” Rotkin said. “I mean, I can imagine what losing those types of jobs would mean. Stride down Delaware Avenue and all those little companies on the Westside could not be happening in Santa Cruz if this agreement goes through. You could do that kind of work in one of the other countries that are part of this agreement.”
Rotkin addressed how production in one country may plummet if the same product can be imported for much less. He also spoke about how production is cheaper in countries such as China because of lenient environmental protection and labor laws.
“The people who are doing jobs here will be undermined by people who are doing it for a lot less money in conditions where they make products cheaper,” Rotkin said. “They don’t worry about destroying water tables or the environment.”
Rotkin and WILPF said the possibility that this bill will be fast-tracked through Congress is one of the biggest dangers. The TPP negotiations are not public, and if the agreement is fast-tracked, Congress will have 90 days to look over and discuss the agreement.
However, Congress is not allowed to make any amendments to the TPP document because the agreement will have already been signed by U.S. Trade Representatives and those of participating countries.
“The single worst part of the new proposed trade agreement is the fast track element,” Rotkin said. “What they’re saying is, ‘We’re gonna put this on the floor of the Congress and vote it up and down. We’re not talking about amendments, we’re not talking about studying for a year the complexities of how the money might flow or what the immigration impacts are going to be.’”
At the end of the discussion, Rotkin solidified both his opinion and that of the WILPF with a final statement.
“The possibility of getting a good trade agreement out of this thing … hasn’t got the chance of a snowball in hell,” Rotkin said.