Berkshire Eagle Editorial: Our Opinion: Skepticism about TPP, and no to its fast-tracking

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There is ample reason for doubt about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), although its tenets have not been fully determined. There is more than enough reason to oppose its fast-tracking.

[Reposted from the Berkshire Eagle  |  February 17, 2015]

Demonstrators in Pittsfield, Springfield and Washington, D.C. will lobby First District Congressman Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat, to oppose both the agreement and its fast-tracking today. The senior member of the Massachusetts delegation, Mr. Neal anticipates taking part in talks on the TPP and wants to reserve judgment.

The 12-nation TPP, which has been in the talking stages for a decade, is primarily involved with the intellectual property rights of corporations and their flow of funds as they strive to loosen government controls. The world's major corporations, including the top pharmaceutical firms, are for it, which should concern everyone who is not a major corporation.

Labor unions, environmental organizations and progressive groups oppose TTP and are aggressively pushing Representative Neal to come out against it. The congressman, who opposed NAFTA, said at an Eagle editorial board meeting that he wants to be in the room for negotiations of TPP and doesn't want to risk being excluded by coming out in opposition. Residents of the Berkshires and Massachusetts should want him in the room as well.

What Representative Neal should oppose is the fast-tracking of the TPP through the congressional Trade Promotion Authority. This means the TPP would be accorded an up-or-down vote without significant debate or the addition of amendments. Remarkably, fast-tracking TPP is one of the precious few issues President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner agree on, but just as remarkably, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans have joined in opposition. Trade agreements tend to make strange bedfellows.

A petition sent to the White House opposing the use of fast-track procedures for TPP or any other future trade agreement has been signed by 151 House Democrats, including five members of the Massachusetts delegation. Congressman Neal should join this effort. As for the TPP, the need for it is doubtful and its potential hazardous, but having Representative Neal participate in the sausage-making process is potentially valuable for his constituents.

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