The Seattle City Council sends a head-scratching message about the importance of trade with a proposal to criticizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
THE Seattle City Council is weighing in on the complex, 5-year-old negotiations over an important Pacific Rim trade agreement, apparently to state the obvious: Seattle wants strong labor and environmental standards.
That message, however, is a whisper in a windstorm. What’s heard more clearly in Seattle is that the council, once again, is distracted from its core duties and chasing after the left’s ideological cause of the moment.
Last Monday, a council committee chaired by Mike O’Brien passed a resolution expressing concern about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade agreement currently being negotiated among the United States and 11 other nations bordering the Pacific Ocean. The council’s resolution also denounced restoration of “fast-track” trade promotion authority, a decades-old policy.
President Obama seeks that fast-track authority from Congress in order to effectively negotiate the important, multination deal. Presidents as far back as Franklin D. Roosevelt have had such power, but the left and right fringes in Congress are pushing against Obama.
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The City Council resolution passed with support from O’Brien, Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata. Councilmember Tim Burgess voted no. On March 30, it goes to the full council where the members should reject it as both ineffective and wrongheaded.
The targets for this foot-stamping apparently are U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Washington state’s congressional delegation. All know far more about trade policy than the City Council.
Froman, undoubtedly, doesn’t take his notes from the council. And most of Washington’s veteran delegation — including U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Reps. Rick Larsen and Dave Reichert — support the TPP negotiations because they are well versed in the economic benefits of trade.
The council’s ordinance sends a head-scratching message about the importance of trade. No American city, arguably, is more dependent on the import-export business than Seattle. The Port of Seattle is an engine of family-wage jobs. Overall, 30 percent of Washington’s exports — nearly $27 billion worth — went to countries participating in the TPP. Stronger U.S. trade ties with those 11 other countries would undoubtedly add to the total, especially in Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and New Zealand.
Yet, the council committee resolution urges our congressional delegation to vote no if the final TPP agreementdoes not meet the demands of a few council members. Most of those demands — including strong labor and environmental standards — are already among Obama’s stated objectives for the TPP, and have been included in other trade agreements the administration has struck.
So what’s the point of a resolution that has no discernible impact and is adverse to the city’s and state’s economic interests?
Pass this resolution and the Seattle City Council would re-earn its reputation for chasing far-flung ideological pursuits, such as when a previous council called for breaching Snake River dams.
How about focusing on matters closer to home, such as a downtown rife with street disorder?