COLUMBUS—Allies who commonly support the Obama Administration offered sharp criticism of an upcoming trade plan at a town hall meeting Wednesday night, insisting it could cost American workers jobs and undermine Wall Street and environmental reforms.
The two-hour meeting featured a half-dozen speakers who each advised Congress not to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, a complex treaty to govern international trade among the United States and a dozen other nations. As a group, these nations control more than 40 percent of global trade.
“Ohioans would be well served to look at the catastrophic results of recent such arrangements,’’ Tim Burga, who heads the Ohio AFL-CI, told attendees. “Between 2000 and 2014, American manufacturing employment dropped by 4 million jobs.’’
Burga said past flawed trade pacts “have blown up our import/export deficit’’ and caused the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs across Ohio.
Cynthia Stewart, chair of the NAACP Political Action Committee, cited reports showing that Ohio worker productivity is rising, while their wages are failing.
“In 2013, our manufacturing sector produced $99.8 billion worth of goods, placing Ohio fourth nationally behind California, Texas and Illinois,’’ she said. “We cannot pass another potentially, job-killing trade agreement that out-sources good-paying, family-sustaining jobs.’’
The two-hour event began with a video from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, who opposes the plan. It concluded with a call for opponents to contact U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, and urge him to oppose the agreement.
TPP opponents criticized both the substance of the proposal and the process used to negotiate it.
Sam Gresham, who chairs Common Cause Ohio, noted that the Obama administration negotiated the deal in secret, “with the help of lots of corporate lobbyists and bankers. The general public was shut out.’’
Details of the pact have emerged, mainly because of WikiLeaks.
Among the more vocal critics are leading environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) and Ohio Sustainable Business Council (OSBC).
“The bottom line is TPP will drive nations to race to the bottom in order to provide the lowest cost and least regulated market environments,’’ said Mark Shanahan, President of New Morning Energy and an and OSBC member.
The Ohio Sierra Club’s Brian Kunkemoeller echoed Shanahan’s concerns, and noted that investor protection provisions in the TPP favor profits of foreign corporations above laws that protect clean air and clean water.
“Similar provisions in other free trade agreements have allowed corporations like Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Occidental petroleum to bring over 600 cases against governments, he said. “These include a moratorium on fracking in Quebec under the St. Lawrence Seaway, a nuclear phase out and coal-fired power plant standards in Germany, and a pollution cleanup in Peru. We cannot and must not allow corporate profits to override our democracy.’’
If you would like to add your voice to the chorus of people urging Sen. Portman to join Sen. Brown in opposing TPP, please call him (1-855-980-2396) OR drop him a note online or here:
US Sen. Rob Portman
448 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Sandy Theis is the Executive Director at ProgressOhio. She previously covered the Ohio Statehouse for Columbus Citizen-Journal and Dayton Daily News, and served as the Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cleveland Plain Dealer.