Wisconsin County Becomes First TPP-Free Zone

A Wisconsin county has become the first in the nation to officially declare itself a “TPP-Free Zone.”

The Dane County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed (with two abstentions) a strong measure in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement, resolving that “Dane County is a TPP-Free Zone.”  The measure further states that, should the TPP ever be enacted, the county would “not surrender our ability to act in the best interests of our residents, our workforce, and our local businesses and to protect our ecological systems on which all life is based.”

The Board of Supervisors also urged all cities, towns and villages within the county to also become TPP-Free Zones.

The measure was supported by County Board Chair John Hendrick, Common Council President Chris Schmidt and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, among others.

The TPP has been under negotiation for years, yet few are even aware of it — largely because U.S. negotiators have been unwilling to share their proposals for public scrutiny.  Including such countries as Vietnam, Japan, Australia, and Malaysia, it would be by far the largest and most far-reaching Free Trade Agreement to date.  Leaked texts first published by Citizens Trade Campaign show that negotiators have pushed for provisions that could delve deeply into state and local policy making.

“The special concern for local government is creating a process whereby a multi-national corporation can challenge our local ordinances before a tribunal,” said Hendrick.  “For example, Madison and Dane County have ‘Buy Local’ and living wage ordinances which might be viewed as barriers to corporate profits.”

The Dane County measure also criticizes the Fast Track process for negotiating and approving trade agreements. Some corporate lobby groups have urged Congress to pass new Fast Track “trade promotion authority” legislation that would allow the TPP to circumvent ordinary Congressional review, amendment and debate procedures.

“Transparency is something we value and demand in City government,” said Soglin. “They did it to us on NAFTA which we opposed; they cannot do it again.  We can’t support it.”

“If this [the TPP] were a good idea, it would have been debated in the open, but this process has been nothing but secretive,” said David Newby, President of the Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition and Former President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. “The federal government won’t provide documents relating to the negotiations to journalists or the public, but more than 600 corporate lobbyists have access. That’s not good governance.”

“The TPP advances the interests and profits of transnational corporations,” said Schmidt.  “It will enable them to exploit the poverty wages and lack of worker protections overseas at the expense of our jobs, our environment, and even our food.  It is not simply terrible public policy that will lower our standard of living, it is an economic coup.”
The Alliance for Democracy has published pointers on how local residents can help their city or county become a TPP-Free Zone.