On Thursday, October 6, 2016, over 100 El Pasoans packed a town hall event hosted by Congressman Beto O’Rourke, urging him to oppose the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The town hall included prepared presentations by Dr. Kathleen Staudt, professor of political science and Dr. Thomas Fullerton, professor of economics, followed by comments from the audience. While representatives from faith, immigrant rights, labor and environmental groups, as well as dozens of other constituents, asked the Congressman to oppose the TPP, only one corporate lobbyist asked him to support it.
State Senator Jose Rodriguez has stated he is concerned that the TPP will only benefit large corporations and big investors, “I’m concerned that instead of lifting standards toward our highest values — protecting air, water and land, producing fair wages, and providing greater opportunity for the workers — it allows investors to seek the lowest standards that provide the quickest returns.”
“These are agreements that are pro-corporate rights and pro-investor rights and are pushed for by those lobbies,” said Theodora Simon of the Hope Border Institute.
Political science professor and border expert Dr. Kathleen Staudt stated, “there is no mention of improving minimum wages in countries like Mexico, a minimum-wage worker in the United States earns $60 a day, compared with a minimum-wage worker in Mexico who earns $5 to $6 a day — and with the peso devaluation, the wages are even worse. El Paso should care about improving the minimum wage on the other side of the border because Mexican shoppers spend a huge amount of money on this side of the border — about $1.7 billion annually. When minimum wages are so low in Mexico, there is an inability for shoppers from Mexico to cross to El Paso and shop and spend money on this side of the border.”
A report “The TPP on the Border Economy” by the Texas Fair Trade Coalition states: “The jobs that are currently in Mexico’s maquiladoras and automobile factories will be under a great challenge and competition from the low-wage Asian countries that are in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including Vietnam and Malaysia. Since the inception of the North America Free Trade Agreement, the El Paso region transitioned from being a place of production into a center for customs brokerage, logistics, distribution and transportation that support production operations in Mexico. But under the TPP, people on both sides of the border will lose jobs. El Paso could possibly be devastated again by a free trade agreement that is being promised to bring prosperity.”
The TPP exemplifies how the rules get rigged by the very few against the interests of the many. The deal was hatched with hundreds of official U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests after years of closed-door negotiations while the public, press and Congress were locked out. The resulting core TPP provision grants thousands of corporations new rights to sue the U.S. government before a panel of three corporate lawyers that can award unlimited sums, including for loss of future expected profits, to be paid by American taxpayers when the corporations claim U.S. policies violate the new entitlements the TPP would provide them.
The TPP will likely be decided by Congress during the lame-duck session after the November election. Rep. O’Rourke is one of only a small handful of Congress members who have not officially taken a position on the corporate trade deal. Constituents want him to oppose the deal before the election.
The Texas Fair Trade Coalition, National Nurses Organizing Committee, La Mujer Obrera, El Paso Equal Voice Network, the Hope Border Institute and others have been working in El Paso to raise awareness about the TPP.