Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted “nay” on Thursday as the Senate advanced a proposed 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal. In a floor speech before the 65-33 roll call vote, Sanders detailed four key reasons why the proposal would be bad for American workers and consumers.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership would follow in the footsteps of other disastrous trade pacts. The North American Free Trade Agreement, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China and other trade deals are a major reason why some 60,000 American factories closed since 2001 as manufacturers shifted jobs to low-wage nations overseas and 4.7 million American jobs disappeared. “Why would we approve another trade deal like those that have failed so miserably,” he asked.
The Pacific Rim agreement is backed by multi-national corporations, Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry – all of which have shown contempt for American working families. Virtually every major trade union and leading environmental and religious groups are opposed. “Who should the American people trust, greedy corporations or those leading the fight for jobs, the environment and moral values?” Sanders asked.
The pact includes a provision which would let corporations take countries to court with claims that environmental, public health and other laws might impact their expected future profits. Under existing trade agreements, for example, the tobacco giant Philip Morris is suing Australia and Uruguay over labeling requirements for cigarettes. The Swedish energy company Vattenfall launched a $5-billion case over Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power. “Why would we pass legislation that would undermine democracy and allow corporations to challenge laws designed to protect the public?” Sanders asked.
Because of the political clout of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, Americans already pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Doctors Without Borders has voiced alarm that the proposed agreement would pad profits on pharmaceutical sales in the United States while making life-saving generic drug treatments unaffordable to millions of people around the world.
“Trade agreements should not just work for corporate America, Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry. They have got to benefit the working families of our country,” Sanders said. “We must defeat fast track and develop a new policy on trade.”