SOUTH PORTLAND – Maine has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs since the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted in 1994. Now, workers throughout Maine are being threatened by another NAFTA-style free trade agreement that will make it easier to ship jobs overseas.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens to be much bigger than NAFTA, and therefore, even more of a danger to workers in our paper mills and shrinking manufacturing sector.

With the United States and 11 Asia-Pacific countries set to complete their 18th round of negotiations, talks are expected to conclude by late summer or early fall. Japan has joined the negotiations for the first time, alongside the United States, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Peru, Chile and Vietnam. Since the 12 countries account for nearly 40 percent of the world’s economy and one-third of all trade, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will likely be the largest free trade agreement of all time. In addition, now China is expressing interest in gaining entry into the trade pact.

Although it has received little media attention, the potential impact of this agreement goes well beyond jobs and trade, literally threatening our nation’s sovereignty. Of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s 29 draft chapters, only five actually deal with traditional trade issues. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being used as a vehicle to maximize corporate profits by undermining our government’s ability to make the laws, rules and regulations that protect us.

Most chapters would take away local control by setting rules on nontrade matters that affect our daily lives: food safety, medicine costs, financial regulation, Internet freedom, environmental standards and more. Our domestic policies could be required to comply with the Trans-Pacific Partnership rules under the investor-state provisions if they pose a threat to the expectations of corporate profits.

The terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are shrouded in secrecy, with members of the public and media being shut out of the negotiations (although representatives from hundreds of multinational corporations have a seat at the table). Members of Congress are allowed to read the text, but they’re forbidden to leave with any copies or notes or to reveal the details of what they read.


U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida said the Trans-Pacific Partnership text he read was chilling: “Having seen what I’ve seen, I would characterize this as … a punch in the face to the middle class of America. I think that’s fair to say from what I’ve seen so far. But I’m not allowed to tell you why!”

Now, President Obama and recently confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman are urging Congress to approve Fast Track or so-called “Trade Promotion Authority” to enable them to quickly ram through the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the soon-to-be-negotiated Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. The multinational corporations stand to be the winners and the American people losers if we allow them to fast-track another unfair free trade deal through Congress.

In June, the Maine House and Senate unanimously approved a resolution drafted by the nonpartisan Maine Citizen Trade Policy Commission urging the federal government to reject the practice of fast-tracking the approval of international trade agreements negotiated in secret.

State Rep. Sharon Treat of Hallowell cautioned on the Maine House floor that fast-tracking free trade agreements would further prevent states like ours from having any input on the content of the treaties.

“Maine strongly supports international trade when fair rules are in place, and seeks to be an active participant in the global economy,” Treat said. “There should be an open and transparent process in place to make sure these treaties don’t undermine Maine’s constitutionally guaranteed authority to protect the public health, safety and welfare under our system of federalism.”

When the United States negotiates a trade agreement, every provision should benefit our working men and women, not the big multinational corporations. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is all about protecting profits — not people.


U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree have already done some good work to promote fair trade (including efforts to protect the manufacturing of shoes at New Balance here in Maine), but more needs to be done.

We need them to demand greater transparency for the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and to speak out against any proposal by the U.S. trade representative to reinstate Fast Track authority for the president. It’s important that the American people and members of Congress have the ability to carefully consider the Trans-Pacific Partnership and all future free trade pacts.

Matthew Beck is vice president of the Maine Fair Trade Campaign in South Portland.


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