The Tampa City Council on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution calling on elected officials in Congress to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the controversial free trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations. It’s intended to reduce trade barriers between the 12 countries by lowering tariffs on goods, coordinating regulations and much more.
The proposal was presented by Council Chair Frank Reddick, and was supported by labor activists who fear that passage of the agreement will make it easier for a big corporation to ship jobs overseas, push down wages and increase income inequality.
City Councilman Mike Suarez, a potential candidate for mayor in 2019, used the opportunity to extol the virtues of the U.S. labor movement. “I think we really need to concentrate on what we can do both locally support people who want to get into the trades, want to learn, want to get apprenticeships,” he said. “Because that’s the only thing that’s going to strengthen labor. These resolutions, although good, aren’t really going the thing that’s going to bring back labor.”
The vote is a bit of an in-your-face move to Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who has become one of Barack Obama‘s biggest champions in selling the virtues of the proposed agreement.
“The opportunity to sell ‘Made in America’ goods around the globe and to knock down some of the impediments that have been erected to U.S. businesses can only be a good thing for our communities and for our bottom line,” Buckhorn said during a conference call set up by the White House in January. “The passage of TTP is in our best interests, our cities best interest, and we think in our country’s best interests.”
Councilwoman Lisa Montelione said she would have liked an extra week to vote on the matter, because Buckhorn said he had read the agreement and questioned if the council had done the same. Montelione said she believed it was 492 pages and would feel more qualified to weigh in if she had the time to absorb it.
It’s actually thousands of pages long.
Montelione also she had heard from critics of the plan, and that “in all fairness” she would like to hear from officials from the Tampa Port or other staff who supported the agreement, she’d like to hear from them.
Reddick and Charlie Miranda both said that they should vote on the resolution today.
“Have I read 492 (pages)?” Miranda asked rhetorically. “No. But I haven’t read the dictionary.”
“This is for the Pacific Rim,” Miranda added. “This ought to be more concerned about Central and South America. This area.”
Before the vote, several members of the local labor movement spoke out against the TPP.
“Our worry is that it’s going to have the chance to override decisions made by elected officials that folks like you and me have put into office at all different levels in this country,” said Aaron Carmella. He cited as an example how the Obama administration has rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline, and is now being sued by the corporation (called TransCanada) that was slated to build the pipeline, as well as filing a grievance to recover billions in damages.
“It’s one example of how we can be held hostage by these international companies,” he added.
“Will the TPP make medicines more expensive? Will the drug pricing provisions give foreign pharmaceutical companies more leverage to force Medicare to cover their products and pay higher products for them?,” asked Dave Bernstein. “Yes, we think they will.”
Republicans and Democrats in Washington predict that Congress will probably not vote on the issue until after the 2016 elections.