When it comes to some of the world’s biggest trade deals, Coloradans are often left in the dark until it’s too late. That’s exactly what happened with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade deal between the United States and 11 other governments that, if approved by Congress, would ship jobs overseas and increase threats to our air, water and climate.
We’ve already seen how trade deals hurt our jobs and our wages. Over 20 years ago, the U.S. was promised economic prosperity from the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Instead, the deal has led to job displacement in all 50 states, including a net loss of 11,300 jobs in Colorado — a net loss that has hurt our economy and wages.
The TPP only stands to exacerbate the problem — we’ll be competing with corporations relocating to countries like Vietnam, where the average minimum wage is a meager 70 cents per hour. At a time when we’re fighting for fair, livable wages, this is beyond unacceptable.
It’s not just jobs that are at stake — the health of our environment hangs in the balance too. The TPP tilts the playing field in favor of multinational fossil fuel corporations, with an “investor-state dispute settlement” provision that allows corporations to sue governments in private trade tribunals, where they can demand our taxpayer dollars for environmental protections meant to keep us safe. We saw this threat laid bare just recently when TransCanada, the company behind the destructive and unnecessary Keystone XL pipeline, announced its plans to use investor-state provisions in NAFTA to sue the U.S. government for $15 billion in so-called “expected revenues” for the Administration’s rejection of the toxic pipeline. For us in Colorado, that’s the equivalent of about $100 from each individual income tax return.
Colorado’s taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay multinational corporations for American laws that we voted for to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food on our dinner tables.
And yet, corporations have launched hundreds of these lawsuits under similar trade deals, increasingly focusing their attacks on fossil fuel restrictions.
The TPP also includes provisions that would give a lifeline to fracking across Colorado and the United States at a time when many of us Coloradans are pushing to restrict fracking so as to protect our air, water and health. By requiring the U.S. Department of Energy to automatically approve all exports of natural gas to countries in the trade deal, the TPP would facilitate increased dangerous fracking and climate-disrupting emissions. In addition, the TPP would nearly double the number of foreign fracking firms that could challenge our protections against fracking in private, unaccountable investor-state tribunals.
In 2015, hundreds of thousands of activists in the climate movement fought against a bill in Congress to fast-track this deal. Ultimately, it squeaked by, and Congress lost its ability to have meaningful input in trade deals like the TPP. Instead, if TPP comes to Congress, our representatives will only be able to vote yes or no.
Last year, Congressman Ed Perlmutter and Congresswoman Diana DeGette voted in the interests of Colorado’s workers, families and environment when they voted no to fast-track authority for the TPP. We need them to stand with our families, our jobs, and our access to clean water and clean air once again by saying no to the toxic TPP.
As workers and environmentalists, we’ve stood up to big polluters before — and won. As we face off against this polluter-friendly trade deal, we must stand strong and united to win again.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.