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Calls for Transparency, Job Protections in New Trade Agreement

PHOTO: For months, Oregon labor groups have joined others in marches and rallies against the Trans Pacific Partnership. They say the 12-nation trade agreement will cost U.S.-based jobs. Photo courtesy Oregon AFL-CIO.
PHOTO: For months, Oregon labor groups have joined others in marches and rallies against the Trans Pacific Partnership. They say the 12-nation trade agreement will cost U.S.-based jobs. Photo courtesy Oregon AFL-CIO.
April 17, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon workers will rally Saturday in six cities to keep their congressional delegation well aware of opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

On Thursday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., brokered a deal with Senate Republicans that is expected to slow but most likely not kill the wide-ranging trade agreement between the United States and 11 other nations. It requires that the TPP, which has been negotiated in secret, be made public for 60 days before President Obama could sign it.

Barbara Dudley, who founded the Oregon Working Families Party and serves as its senior policy adviser, said the TPP's focus is protecting investors and the movement of capital between countries - which makes even some Republicans in Congress nervous about it.

"Not just because they oppose anything that the Obama administration does," she said, "but also because there are a lot of sort of populist Republicans who are as unhappy with the lack of sovereignty for the United States in these trade deals as any progressive."

Generally, Dudley said, companies and farms that do mostly local business tend to oppose the TPP, while major exporters, or those that could benefit from moving manufacturing or processing facilities to lower-wage countries, are in favor of it.

The new bill also requires trading partners to uphold what Wyden calls "core labor and environmental standards."

Tom Chamberlain, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, said Oregonians are right to be wary of any new trade deal after the North American Free Trade Agreement of the 1990s. The union said NAFTA saw American companies build factories in Mexico and move 700,000 jobs. Chamberlain said people are concerned it could happen again with the TPP.

"They've seen almost 20 years of what bad trade agreements have done to our economy," he said. "They've seen manufacturing jobs offshored. They've seen the rise of the mega-rich. And they just don't trust government, when they're talking about these trade agreements, that it's going to be good for them."

Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Peter DeFazio, both D-Ore., have said they intend to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Others in the Oregon delegation are mum so far.

Saturday's anti-TPP rallies are planned for Bend, Coos Bay, Eugene, Medford, Portland and Salem.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR