A coalition of House Democrats and environmental, labor, faith, food safety and other groups have intensified their opposition to a provision granting the president “fast track” authority to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress without amendments and with limited debate.
TPP is the massive free trade agreement currently under negotiation between the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Draft text of the deal is not available to the public.
“American workers have suffered great harm under NAFTA and other deals like it,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) at the start of a press conference held Thursday on Capitol Hill. “Their representatives must be able to consider carefully the consequences of future deals. Fast track would be yet another insult to the American worker.”
Other speakers included Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Deborah Dingell (D-MI) and Paul Tonko (D-NY), along with representatives from the AFL-CIO, National Catholic Social Justice Lobby NETWORK, the Sierra Club and Food & Water Watch.
Most spoke passionately about how TPP would result in the loss of thousands of American jobs, but they noted that a number of other issues are at stake such as domestic finances, energy, medicine-patent and food safety.
“Trade deals go way beyond trade,” DeLauro said. “This coalition exists because trade deals affect everybody.”
Tony Corbo, senior lobbyist for Food & Water Watch, said the U.S. is already dealing with an incapacity to fully regulate its food system, and TPP would only stretch it further.
“We don’t have the regulatory capacity to deal with increased trade from a food standpoint,” he said.
As with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), which is also currently under negotiation, food safety advocates are concerned about the “harmonization” of processing standards in different countries so that they’re deemed equivalent, even though one country might actually have higher standards than another.
“It’s a downward spiral of food safeguards,” Debbie Barker, international director for the Center for Food Safety, told Food Safety News.
She said that one difference between the two trade agreements is that TPP poses more of a threat to U.S. consumers because, while T-TIP is pushing for Europe to lower its standards, TPP could lower food safety standards for products imported into the U.S.
As an example, Barker said that fish raised with some antibiotics and other veterinary drugs banned in U.S. food production — but allowed in many other TPP countries — could be sold in U.S. grocery stores as a result of the agreement.
“No matter what side of the political coin you’re on,” Barker said, “it doesn’t really matter because we all eat food. These agreements really touch everybody immediately through food.”© Food Safety News