AUGUST 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News
Future of TPP Trade Agreement in doubt because of Mexico
BY PAUL TUCKER
REGION, August 1st- Weeks after the Obama Administration got the authority from the United States Congress to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (TPPTA), the deal is being held-up by former trade deals while several counties are trying to protect their own interest including Mexico.
Despite intense lobbying by the labor community against the passage of the TPPTA, a measure meant to ease trade restrictions with Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, and Canada, the United States Senate passed the legislation in early summer allowing Democratic President Barack Obama to negotiate global trade deals that the United States Congress can only approve or reject but not change. The legislation had already passed the House of Representatives with the support of most Republicans and twenty-eight Democrats.
The legislation was opposed fiercely by the labor community which is being called “fast track” but was passed by the full Senate on June 25th, 60 to 38. Most of the Senate Democrats voted against the measure including Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey Jr. Pennsylvania’s other Senator Republican Pat Toomey voted in favor of the legislation that President Obama supported and signed into law.
President Barack Obama made the passage of TPPTA a major part of his agenda during his final two years in office.
The pact needed the approval by both chambers of Congress because it is considered to be a treaty.
The labor community has made it clear it opposed the trade agreement and implemented a new tactic is fighting against it. Many of the labor organizations that are affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) had froze campaign contributions to members of Congress to pressure them from supporting the trade deal. The legislation passed anyway with the help of some Democrats and shows how organized labor can no longer can by itself stop anti-union legislation from passing or getting pro-union legislation through Washington.
To get the trade-authority legislation through, Senate Republicans advanced a bill that continued the worker-aid program called the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).
The Trade Adjustment Assistance program has been used to help workers that lost their jobs because by foreign trade. TAA helps re-train workers for other jobs that have suffered from production being shift overseas to competition from imports. In the past many garment workers, electronic manufacturer workers, and steel makers received TAA. The worker-aid program must first be requested by an employer or union before any worker can receive help in re-training which includes federal funded higher education programs.
However, during trade-talks held in Hawaii several issues have emerged that has so-far delayed the deal from being completed and some involved have stated could “derail” the trade.
Mexico wants the provision to continue under the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which requires three-fifths of content of cars originating in North America before the automobiles could cross borders duty free. Japan wants automakers to be able to source a greater proportion of parts needed for production to be made outside of North America. Mexico, which is becoming a world automotive manufacturing leader, is fighting to keep the NAFTA rule in place, which could derail the TPPTA deal. Mexican negotiators have made in clear that their economy depends on the NAFTA provision.