Byron Schlomach’s article, “Arizona’s future depends on international trade,” April 21, implies that all international trade agreements are good for Arizona and the United states. Some are and some are not so good.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, or TPP, is one of those not good for the state or the nation.
Starting with the free-trade agreement between the United States and Canada, the U.S. has adopted the argument that the benefits of free trade outweigh the job losses caused by it. When Mexico was added as the third country to benefit from tariff elimination, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was created.
In the years that followed, more free-trade agreements were negotiated by the U.S. with one or several countries, and the U.S. now has agreements with over 20 countries.
In each of these agreements, duty elimination has been the first objective. The second has been the creation of a framework under which to conduct international trade.
The TPP is the most recent free-trade agreement to be considered for approval by the U.S. and approximately a dozen other countries. As with other trade agreements, Congress is being asked to give up its right to debate the different provisions of the TPP and, instead, approve or disapprove the TPP by a simple up or down vote. This is the “fast track” authority used to gain trade-agreement approval.
U.S. Reps. Ron Barber, Raúl Grijalva and Ann Kirkpatrick all oppose fast track. In addition to job losses and the fast-track issue, the TPP also contains provisions to empower companies to sue governments that affect their ability to make profits. This goes well above the provisions contained in existing free-trade agreements.
Until recently, jobs in U.S. manufacturing were lost as manufacturing was moved to foreign countries. This was considered to be the price of free trade, which was countered by gains in the amount of goods exported from the U.S. While this may be good for foreign labor, it is not so good for U.S. workers who had these jobs. But it is not just those workers who are hurt. The communities and tax coffers in the places where these people live, raise their families and pay taxes are similarly hurt. This trend is not limited to manufacturing jobs.
In addition to costing jobs, the TPP would also give companies the legal right to sue governments who interfere with their “rights” to freely import and export goods unrestricted. These TPP provisions could be used to challenge legal provisions that seek to protect consumers’ health from, for example, contaminated food.
The third item concerns the fast-track authority. Congress should examine and debate the provisions within the TPP. This is an agreement among not one or two countries but roughly a dozen. It also contains provisions that were never included in other free-trade agreements.
In addition to the three provisions I have discussed, other portions of the TPP are worrisome. It should be rejected as too costly to the U.S., and too weak to protect U.S. health concerns.