Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn) is focusing attention on another sneaky provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with negotiations again underway in Ottawa, Canada. This time, negotiators are looking to nullify the "Buy American" and "Buy Local" policies meant to create and keep jobs in the U.S.
"It's the worst trade agreement that you never heard of," Rep. Ellison said in a video. "Buy American could well be a thing of the past if the Trans-Pacific Partnership gets passed in the way that we understand it to be right now. We have people on both sides of the aisle who are very concerned about the Buy American provisions and that U.S. government procurement buying power should benefit U.S. workers."
CWA Minnesota State Council President Mona Meyer praised Ellison for his deep commitment and for being an important ally on this issue. CWA Minnesota has been integral in the fight against the TPP, distributing flyers and holding public rallies, writing letters to the state's Congressional delegation questioning why Vietnam, which is notorious for child-labor violations, is taking part in the negotiations.
"We've learned so much about TPP and have not yet found anything good coming out of the TPP negotiations," Meyer said. "CWA Minnesota tells the story and makes connections with people. What lasts with people is our stories. Those make the impact. What we have and how we could lose everything we have with this destructive, horrible TPP free trade deal."
Passed in 1933, the Buy American Act requires the U.S. government to prefer products made in the U.S. in its purchases. Other Federal laws extend the requirements to third-party purchases that use Federal funds, such as highway and transit programs.
End runs have been made around the policy in past international trade deals but the current round of TPP negotiations, which started on July 3 and is expected to last until July 12, may do away with the policy entirely because of the sheer size of the deal and the number of nations seeking to participate.
Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) have written a letter to President Barack Obama that they are circulating among House colleagues for signatures of support asking the president to make sure U.S. trade negotiators do not undermine the policy in negotiations.
They point out in the letter that 70 House members had written the president in May 2012 raising concerns about TPP proposals under consideration that would greatly limit the Buy American policies, adversely affecting American jobs, workers and manufacturers.
"It is our understanding that now, two years later, U.S. TPP negotiators have agreed to provisions that would require all firms operating in any TPP signatory country to be treated the same as U.S. firms with respect to granting them U.S. government procurement contracts," they wrote in their letter. "Effectively, in exchange for procurement opportunities for some U.S. firms to bid on contracts in foreign procurement markets, we would agree to trade away our ability to ensure that billions in U.S. government expenditures are recycled into our economy to create jobs, strengthen our manufacturing sector, and foster our own new cutting-edge industries."
Ellison said U.S. negotiators are going about the TPP deal all wrong, negotiating it in secret with corporations in the room but shutting out Congress while doling out piecemeal information to elected leaders.
"Trade is reality so trade deals should lift labor standards around the world, not just create this race to the bottom," Rep. Ellison said.