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Another missed TPP deadline calls pact's agenda into question

(Source: International Brotherhood of Teamsters press release, December 10, 2013)

WASHINGTON, D.C. As negotiators for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) missed yet another deadline for completing the pact in Singapore early this morning, labor, environmental, consumer and Congressional leaders held a media briefing that called the U.S. Trade Representative's (USTR's) agenda for the pact into question. Pointing to the TPP's significant threats to jobs, the environment and consumer safety, they called for release of TPP texts and voiced strong opposition to "Fast Track" authority for the pact.

"With the conclusion of the Singapore ministerial meeting, yet another round of talks have come and gone without any details in the TPP being released to the public. We have no idea if strong labor standards will be enforced by trade sanctions or if real disciplines on currency manipulation will be part of the deal despite calls from Congress to include them. As a member of the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, I am calling for the release of the text of this agreement. We cannot rely on unconfirmed leaks to find out what is in this deal," said James P. Hoffa, General President of the Teamsters.

"Workers want a new trade policy that will create jobs, promote rising wages and reduce our trade deficit and negotiators are headed in the wrong direction. An effective agreement can't just reduce tariffs, it must truly open markets to our exports, prohibit state-owned enterprises from engaging in non-commercial transactions, eliminate currency manipulation and, most important, ensure that workers actually benefit from their hard work rather than see their jobs offshored and outsourced as has happened with every past trade agreement. The TPP is far from achieving those goals and negotiators should stop setting arbitrary deadlines. Success should only be measured by the number of domestic jobs that are created and the increase in workers' living standards," said Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers.

"We've been losing service sector jobs at the same pace now as manufacturing jobs. Half a million call center jobs have gone overseas in the past five years. The 600 multinationals that are negotiating this deal are looking at net profits. We need to look at what would be the net results on jobs for workers not just jobs created by exports but also those jobs lost to imports," said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America.

Trade negotiators for the now twelve-nation free trade agreement have set numerous deadlines for completing their work. Earlier in the year, USTR had announced the October Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bali as its latest deadline for completing the TPP. When that deadline passed without an agreement, they said they intended to complete the pact by the end of the year. The four-day TPP ministerial in Singapore concluded today with a joint-statement that negotiators will meet again next month.

Despite officially participating in the TPP for four years, come December 14th, the Obama administration has refused to officially release any of its proposals for the TPP for public scrutiny.

"This outcome demonstrates, once again, how controversial the Trans-Pacific Partnership is and calls into question whether leaders will ever be able to reach agreement. It's time beyond time to release the text of this sweeping agreement so we can have a serious public debate about the effects of this pact on our economy, our children's health, and our climate," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

"Thankfully the much vaunted 2013 deadline for sealing a deal on TPP has been missed, but at this meeting U.S. negotiators bullied many countries into agreeing to damaging medicine patent and pricing rules demanded by large pharmaceutical firms that will drastically raise medicine prices. There is now an altogether new desperation to lock in a deal because the TPP is in a race against time: as more details emerge weekly about the damage TPP could do to workers, consumers and the environment, grassroots and lawmaker opposition in many countries is growing. The draft TPP text must be released so those of us who will live with the results can know just what was this so-called 'progress' entailed, and at whose expense," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

Also participating in today's briefing call were Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who argued that USTR has not only failed to reach an agreement for the TPP with other countries, but also with the U.S. Congress. Both indicated that they will continue their strong opposition to "Fast Track" trade promotion authority, legislation that would enable the TPP to circumvent ordinary Congressional review, amendment and debate procedures.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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