Getting the TPP right: What needs to happen in Hawaii

Getting the TPP right: What needs to happen in Hawaii


By:  Senator Jeff Merkley

This week, trade negotiators from the United States and 11 other nations are gathering in Hawaii with the aim of completing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade deal that will encompass nearly 40 percent of the global economy and shape our economic future for decades to come.

When done right, on a level playing field, trade can be a powerful tool for global growth and rising living standards — allowing each nation to specialize in what it does best and to access the best products from other countries without high tariffs or other trade barriers.

But too often, past trade deals have not lived up to this standard. Instead, they’ve created a massively tilted playing field that has incentivized a global race to the bottom on labor practices, environmental protections and human rights. In the United States, our workers have paid a heavy price through stagnant wages, millions of lost jobs and tens of thousands of shuttered factories.

This week is the last chance for negotiators to ensure that the TPP will depart from prior trade deals and finally create the global race to the top — and better American jobs and rising wages — that we deserve.

To that end, the negotiators should take this final opportunity to strengthen the deal in seven key areas: 

  1. Protecting strong consumer, environmental and public health laws: The trade deal reportedly includes an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process that would allow foreign corporations to challenge nations’ consumer, environmental or public health laws in an international tribunal. Before the trade deal is finalized, it should explicitly exempt laws that protect consumers, public health and the environment from being challenged in this way.
  2. Currency manipulation: Currency manipulation has cost American manufacturers and American jobs by acting as an invisible tariff on U.S.-made products and an invisible subsidy for products made in nations that engage in currency manipulation. The negotiators should significantly strengthen provisions cracking down on currency manipulation.
  3. Making environmental and labor provisions enforceable: Require countries to conform to a higher standard of labor and environmental laws and implement those laws for 18-24 months before entering into the treaty.
  4. Minimum wage: To prevent a global race to the bottom on wages, the final deal should require each country to have a minimum wage based on local living costs, and require that wage to rise over time to narrow the gap between low-wage and high-wage countries.
  5. Generic drugs: It has been widely reported that the TPP will extend intellectual property protections for certain pharmaceutical products in a way that will make it harder to get generic drugs onto the market and otherwise get affordable medication to developing countries. Before the deal is finalized, these kinds of special-interest provisions should be excluded from the TPP.
  6. Human rights: Malaysia, one of the nations that would enjoy a major expansion of trade with the United States under the TPP, has an abysmal record on human trafficking — essentially modern-day slavery. As recently as this spring, mass graves were found along with suspected human-trafficking camps in northern Malaysia. No nation should be able to join the trade alliance while engaging in egregious human rights violations.
  7. Manufacturing: We cannot afford another trade deal that decimates American manufacturing and good-paying jobs. Before it’s finalized, our negotiators should ensure the TPP will strengthen U.S. manufacturing by making countervailing duty and anti-dumping claims against foreign companies easier to bring and to resolve successfully, helping to level the playing field for American manufacturers in international trade. 

This may be the last and only chance to get the TPP right before a giant new trade deal creates devastating effects for workers, the environment and our American middle class. Let’s make it count.