U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee is a strong Obama ally but didn’t support TPP.
President Obama suffered a rare and stinging rebuke from members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently when most of them rejected his Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. On June 12, a large number of Congressional Democrats and some Republicans defeated Obama’s request for the approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). TPP is a commercial trading initiative consisting largely of Asian countries that, if formed, would include almost 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. The vote to defeat the TPP was 219-211, with only four CBC members supporting it: Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and Mia Love (R-Utah).
The deal would give the U.S. president fast track authority or the ability to negotiate trade agreements with minimal interference from Congress.
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), one of Obama’s strongest allies in the Congress, said, “We owe the American people a trade deal that created American jobs, not one that gambles with families’ livelihoods,” Lee said. “Fast Track only serves to push a secret agreement through Congress that endangers American jobs, human rights, and our food.”
Most members of the CBC are supported by organized labor, which has come out against the TPP. Environmental and human rights groups have also raised concerns about the trade deal.
However, Sewell talked about supporting TPP more on political terms.
“The bottom line is that President Obama has our back and we should have his too,” Sewell said.
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) said that while she generally supports Obama, she didn’t support TPP. “I’ve seen enough of these ‘free trade’ deals to know how this goes,” Edwards said recently. “Giant, multinational corporations write the bill with their best interests in mind and then try to sell the public pipe dreams of jobs and economic growth that never materialize.”
Edwards continues, “It’s time to restart the trade debate with full participation of Congress and robust support of American workers and small and medium businesses.”
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said the TPP doesn’t hold countries that are known to be insensitive to human rights accountable. “I have visited Vietnam and I know that there is much work to be done,” Lewis said. “There is no freedom to organize and freedom of speech is limited.”
Lewis said, “We can develop smart trade policies which reflect our values.
“Labor, human rights and trade have always been connected. This is not new.”