Seattle City Council on Monday unanimously passed a resolution opposing the so-called fast-track consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Burly tradesmen stood shoulder to shoulder with environmental activists and the local chapter of the Raging Grannies on Monday to urge the Seattle City Council to send President Obama and the world’s largest companies a message from the Northwest.
The council complied, voting 9-0 for a resolution stating its opposition to so-called fast-track consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an international trade and business agreement being negotiated by the Obama administration.
Mayor Ed Murray said he didn’t concur with the move.
The fast-track authority Obama is seeking would allow the TPP to be finalized with no opportunity for Congress to amend it, limit the time Congress has to review it and force Congress to vote only yes or no, according to Councilmember Mike O’Brien.
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The resolution is just a recommendation; the council has no jurisdiction over the TPP. But O’Brien, who sponsored the resolution with help from Councilmember Kshama Sawant, said the pact between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries is Seattle’s business because of the large volume of foreign trade in the city.
Council President Tim Burgess withheld his support for the resolution last week as it made its way through a council committee but came around Monday after huddling with O’Brien and labor-union leaders.
“The City Council strongly supports trade done right,” Burgess said in a statement. “We’re asking our federal government for an updated and transparent process that can lead to an agreement that upholds these values.”
Seattle’s council isn’t the first to take a ceremonial stand against the fast-track approval of the TPP. New York City, Los Angeles and Bellingham all beat the Emerald City to the punch.
Washington is the country’s most trade-dependent state, O’Brien said, with 40 percent of jobs here directly or indirectly related to international trade.
Though the pact is being hammered out mostly behind closed doors, leaked text from a draft of the deal has drawn ire from a wide range of interested parties, including labor unions, environmentalists, social-justice advocates and some libertarians.
Boeing machinists, a union representative testified Monday, are concerned about the TPP sending more jobs overseas, while the Raging Grannies — a group of older female activists — worry the pact will hand too much power to multinational corporations.
The leaked text indicates the TPP would allow foreign companies to challenge local laws via trade tribunals rather than U.S. courts, O’Brien said, warning that such actions could jeopardize the progressive measures Seattle is known for, such as its plan for a $15 minimum wage.
“Seattle has some of the highest environmental and labor standards in the country, and it is critical that multinational corporations do not have the power to undermine our laws or values,” he said.
Representatives from the Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT), Microsoft and other TPP proponents advised the council against the resolution.
“Trade is the lifeblood of Seattle’s economy, and the City Council should be taking a stand to call for increased and enhanced trade opportunities,” WCIT President Eric Schinfeld said in a statement after the vote.
Murray explained his stance this way: “Thousands of jobs in Seattle and across the region depend on made-in-America exports that pass through our international gateways,” he said. “President Obama shares my belief that our nation’s trade agreements must have strong and enforceable worker and environmental protections.
“We need to give the administration the tools necessary to negotiate the best deal for American workers,” the mayor said.