RACINE — In Wisconsin and across the nation, there has been no shortage of politicians, public officials and everyday people with an opinion about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed free-trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other nations bordering the Pacific Ocean.
Earlier this week, the City Council’s Committee of the Whole added its name to the list of organizations with something to say about the deal when it voted 9-5 to recommend to the City Council that it pass a resolution urging Congress to oppose the deal.
The measure now moves on to the full City Council, which is slated to consider the resolution when it meets Tuesday. Aldermen Jim Kaplan, Sandy Weidner, Q.A. Shakoor II, Terry McCarthy and Jim Morgenroth, voted against having the City Council consider the resolution at the committee’s meeting on March 1.
Put forward by 11th District Alderman Mary Land, the resolution is sharply critical of the deal, likening it to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which took effect in 1994.
“Racine has already lost many of its manufacturing jobs due to previous free-trade policies,” said Land, a retired autoworker who said she was laid off following the passage of NAFTA. “We all remember the promises of more jobs that came along with NAFTA ... These jobs were never created, instead we bled manufacturing jobs that flowed out of our country instead of in.”
When asked who drafted the resolution, Land could not identify the original author, but said the measure was essentially the same as one approved by the Kenosha City Council late last year.
A quick Internet search of the resolution language turned up similar resolutions considered by local governments across the country, including Nashville, Tenn.; Northhampton, Mass, and Berkeley, Calif.
Several aldermen on Tuesday voiced reservations about weighing in on the agreement, especially one unrelated to city business.
“This is beyond the jurisdiction of this City Council, as well as our ability to influence. I think it is inappropriate to consider this resolution,” said McCarthy, who represents the 9th District.
After watching a July 2015 news segment about the deal produced by Yahoo News and journalist Katie Couric called “Trans-Pacific Partnership explained,” many council members still had qualms about considering the resolution.
Weidner said the issue is too confusing, and doesn’t believe that the committee has been given enough information to send the resolution on to the full City Council.
Kaplan urged residents themselves to reach out to their congressmen about the deal.
“I don’t think we should put our stamp of approval on it knowing that it doesn’t affect as much of southeastern Wisconsin than if it was directly aimed at us,” he said.
About the TPP
The TPP has drawn opposition from a wide array of political figures, including Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, and most recently Russ Feingold. On Monday, Feingold, who is running in an attempt to regain a seat in the U.S. Senate, called on his opponent in November’s election, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to join him in opposing the deal.
Proponents of the deal include President Barack Obama, whose administration negotiated it. They say it could stave off rising Chinese influence in East Asia by strengthening U.S. trade ties with countries such as Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.
Contents of the proposed deal were released last fall. The proposal outlines plans to remove or lower tariffs on a range of products, resolve international investor disputes and protections for intellectual property such as copyrights and patents. Labor provisions would require participating countries to allow workers to join unions and collectively bargain, do away with child labor and forced labor, and be free from employment discrimination.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who represents Racine County in Congress, had made congressional approval of the TPA one of his central priorities when he was serving as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
The Wisconsin State Journal contributed to this report.
“We all remember the promises of more that came along with NAFTA ... these jobs were never created, instead we bled manufacturing jobs that flowed out of our country instead of in.”
— Mary Land, 11th District Alderwoman