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Sanders writes: "America's trade agreements benefit large multinational corporations and Wall Street, but are a disaster for working families. We must defeat the TPP."

Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: Bob Clark/Getty)
Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: Bob Clark/Getty)

So-Called 'Free Trade' Policies Hurt US Workers Every Time We Pass Them

By Bernie Sanders, Guardian UK

01 May 15


America’s trade agreements benefit large multinational corporations and Wall Street, but are a disaster for working families. We must defeat the TPP

lbert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. As the middle class continues to decline and the gap between the very rich and everyone else grows wider, we should keep that in mind as Congress debates the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest trade agreement in American history.

Trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), the Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta) and the granting of Permanent Normal Trade Relations to China have been abysmal failures: they allowed corporations to shut down operations in the US and move work to low-wage countries where people are forced to work for pennies an hour; and they are one of the reasons that we have lost almost 60,000 factories in our country and millions of good-paying jobs since 2001.

The TPP is simply the continuation of a failed approach to trade – an approach which benefits large multinational corporations and Wall Street, but which is a disaster for working families. The TPP must be defeated, but our overall trade policy must also change for corporations to start investing in America and creating jobs here again, and not just in China and other low wage countries.

Before even Congress votes on any final trade agreement, the President has asked for “fast track authority” (also called Trade Promotion Authority or TPA) to complete TPP negotiations with 11 other countries. Fast track would relinquish Congress’s constitutional authority to the President to “regulate commerce with foreign nations”, limit our debate and prevent members of Congress from improving trade agreements to benefit the American people.

I intend to do everything I can to defeat both fast track and the overall TPP agreement. Our goal in Congress must be to make sure that American-made products, not American jobs, are our number-one export. We’ll never be able to do that if we enact the TPP and continue negotiating other treaties based on the same failed policies.

For instance, two of the countries in the TPP are Vietnam and Malaysia. In Vietnam, the minimum wage is equivalent to 56 cents an hour, independent labor unions are banned and people are thrown in jail for expressing their political beliefs or trying to improve labor conditions. In Malaysia, migrant workers who manufacture electronics products are working as modern-day slave laborers who have had their passports and wages confiscated and are unable to return to their own countries. American workers should not have to “compete” against people forced to work under these conditions. This is not “free trade”; it is a race to the bottom.

And this “free trade” agreement focuses on much more than just buying and selling goods. It is part of an effort to boost the profits of large corporations and Wall Street by offshoring jobs, undercutting worker rights, and dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety and financial laws. Under TPP, for instance, Vietnamese companies would be able to compete with American companies for federal contracts funded by US taxpayers, undermining “Buy American” laws.

The TPP would also threaten US sovereignty by giving foreign corporations the right to challenge before international tribunals any law that could reduce their “expected future profits”. This provision, known as the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), has allowed Phillip Morris to sue Uruguay from its headquarters in Switzerland over the former’s laws designed to discourage children and pregnant women from smoking. The French utility, Veolia, is suing Egypt under these same provisions over an increase in the national minimum wage.

In addition to harming American workers, the TPP would increase the price of life-saving prescription drugs in poor countries by making it harder for them to obtain affordable generic drugs. That’s why Doctors without Borders has said: “the TPP agreement is on track to become the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines in developing countries.”

Supporters of the TPP claim that this treaty will create good-paying jobs in the United States and reduce the trade deficit – but that’s exactly what they said about Nafta, PNTR with China, and the South Korea trade agreement, among others, and they have been proven dead wrong each and every time.

In 1993, President Clinton promised that Nafta would create 200,000 American jobs in two years; instead, Nafta has led to the loss of more than 680,000 jobs. In 1999, we were promised that PNTR with China would open up the Chinese economy to American made goods and services; instead, it led to the loss of more than 2.7m American jobs. In 2011, the US Chamber of Commerce told us that the South Korea free trade agreement would create some 280,000 jobs; instead, it has led to the loss of some 60,000 jobs.

Enough is enough! If we are serious about rebuilding the middle class and creating the millions of good paying jobs we desperately need, we must fundamentally rewrite our trade policies. We must not give the president – let alone the next one –fast track authority, and we must defeat the TPP. your social media marketing partner
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