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Critics: New "Trade Agreement" Puts NC Jobs and Autonomy at Risk

Photo: Trade Ministers from nine TPP economies. Courtesy: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Photo: Trade Ministers from nine TPP economies. Courtesy: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
September 26, 2013

RALEIGH, N.C. - Twenty-one years after NAFTA reduced the number of manufacturing jobs in North Carolina by 35 percent, the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations are negotiating a new trade agreement that affects the autonomy North Carolina and the rest of the nation have when it comes to a variety of policies that extend far beyond trade, a watchdog group has charged.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, said people might be surprised at its reach.

"It affects everything from food safety rules and the right to set financial regulation rules to land-use issues - even how North Carolina tax dollars can be allocated by the state Legislature."

Wallach is in Raleigh today to speak to concerned citizens and leaders about the issue. The AFL-CIO also has spoken out against the agreement.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been in negotiation since 2008, but Wallach said it has largely been kept under wraps by trade officials. Supporters of the partnership have argued that it is necessary, in order to advance the world economy.

Public Citizen and other groups, such as the North Carolina Justice Center, are working to make sure North Carolinians understand what the TPP would mean for Americans, Wallach explained.

"What we can do is, number one, get the word out, because to some degree the TPP is like Dracula: It only does well if it's hiding in the dark. So we need to get some public sunshine there and have a debate and discussion," she said.

President Obama has said he intends to sign the agreement by next month.

Wallach pointed out that although the TPP is referred to as a "trade agreement," only five of the 29 chapters cover trade matters such as tariffs or quotas.

Reporting for this story by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest. Media in the Public Interest is funded in part by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Stephanie Carson/Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC