TPP opposition grows in Hawaii

Coalition of labor, environmental, Native Hawaiian, farmer, and social justice groups urges bold opposition to “fast tracking” the Trans-Pacific Partnership

News Report
Hawaii Independent Staff

In response to U.S.-House approval to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a diverse coalition of Hawaii organizations united to issue a strong statement calling on lawmakers for continuing, and emboldened, action to stop fast track legislation.

Fast track legislation would remove Congressional oversight of far-reaching international treaties, forcing an expedited “yes/no” vote with no amendments and limited debate. On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted for granting President Obama, and subsequent administrations, fast track authority over the TPP and similar treaties. The measure now returns to the Senate, which earlier voted for a different fast track package.

Thus far, Senator Schatz, Senator Hirono, Representative Gabbard and Representative Takai, have all voted against fast track in an ongoing saga of high-pressure efforts by the Obama administration and Republican leadership to pass it in various forms.

The coalition urged Congress members for resolute opposition to fast track and the TPP, listing specific concerns regarding potential local impacts. Organizations taking part in the coalition include labor, environmental, farmer, Native Hawaiian, health, social and economic justice, and anti human-trafficking groups from Obama’s home state: AiKea Movement, Babes Against Biotech, Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A), Hawaiʻi Peace and Justice, Hawai‘i Farmers Union, Hawai‘i SEED, Young Democrats Kauai, Hui Ho‘opakele ‘Aina, Hui o Kuapa and Hawaiian Learning Center, IWIKUA, Kaua’i Alliance for Peace and Social Justice, Malama Kaua‘i, ‘Ohana O Kaua‘i, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, UNITE HERE Local 5 and Sierra Club Hawaii.

A statement sent to lawmakers reads:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other international agreements currently being negotiated, including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), would severely undermine democracy, equality, sustainability, worker protections, human health, and indigenous rights. The trio of international treaties that are laying the foundations for a new system of international law are centered around extending the profits, powers, privatization rights, markets and speculative capacities of the world’s largest corporations and banks. The implications for people and the planet are grave and extensive. They range from loss of access to life-saving medicines, to displacement of local food systems that feed the world’s poorest, to the ruin of internet freedom, to the continual offshoring of jobs that drives down wages and working conditions. The TPP touches every part of our lives, and could thwart future attempts to deal with climate change and other environmental problems that threaten the livability of the planet. Further, virtually any local or national law could be challenged by corporations in offshore tribunals, dismantling the very structures of democracy.

Locally in Hawaii, the TPP and similar international treaties could lead to increased foreign-ownership of the islands’ most valuable resources, terminate local procurement policies that support local agriculture, restrict renewable energy initiatives, interfere with Kanaka Maoli self-determination efforts, increase the costs of State health services like QUEST, remove both the State and Counties’ abilities to regulate pesticide use, freeze minimum wage, inhibit the development of a more diversified economy, privatize important public services, and make all taxpayers liable for any multinational corporation’s “expected profits.”

We strongly support international agreements and actions that advance environmental and climate protections, human rights, social justice, labor protections, democracy and global cooperation. For this very reason, we oppose the TPP, and especially “fast track” legislation that would circumvent democratic deliberation over such treaties. Further, we demand transparency in the negotiation of these far-reaching international agreements, which has been extraordinarily secretive, with exception to corporate advisers that most stand to benefit. Given the impacts on all of our lives, immediate release of the working texts of the TPP, TTIP and TISA is imperative. We support all individual efforts, including by Congress members, to publish portions of draft negotiating texts.

We thank our Hawaii policy-makers for voting against fast track legislation thus far, and call for continuing, and bold, action against the TPP and any fast track bill.

The most recent, House passed version of fast track legislation could be voted on by the Senate as early as Tuesday, June 23. The House bill raises additional concerns to the original Senate version, including prohibition of climate solutions in future trade negotiations, weakening of human trafficking measures, and elimination of currency-manipulation restrictions.