Good to know that the ranking member of the House Budget Committee and candidate for Barbara Mikulski's Senate seat is listening to progressive voices these days.
While the legislation remains behind closed doors for now, Van Hollen said continuing public opposition from Republicans made it clear that the TPA legislation wouldn’t include additional currency, labor, and environmental provisions. Moreover, he wrote that since TPA was being unveiled so close to the conclusion of the overall trade talks, “it is clearly too late for TPA to have any meaningful impact on the shape of TPP negotiations.”
Like virtually all Democrats, Van Hollen cited concerns that enforceable currency manipulation obligations would not be included in the trade deal.
He also said he objects to further entrenching the investor-state dispute settlement process, which according to negotiating documents leaked last month by Wikileaks will be included in the TPP deal. Those provisions set up a process of international tribunals where foreign companies can challenge regulatory actions by sovereign governments, and seek financial damages for any lost profit as a result of regulation. Van Hollen wrote that “a TPP that allows for increased investor lawsuits could undermine a government’s right to regulate in the public interest and involve the US in costly and detrimental lawsuits covered by American taxpayers.”
Van Hollen further cited concerns over labor standards in some of the signatory countries, particularly Vietnam, and said he insists on an agreement that includes “strong and enforceable labor protections as well as an action plan to ensure that countries are complying with internationally recognized labor rights.”
There shouldn't really be any doubt about where any Democrat stands on this, but with the Obama administration working so hard to sell it, Democrats are divided. It's possible this trade agreement could be nothing like NAFTA, but why should we think so when it's all hush-hush, hidden behind a cloak of secrecy and silence?
Van Hollen's letter makes it clear there are too many similarities between this agreement and every other trade agreement that has screwed American workers, so it's good to see a high-ranking Democrat like him publicly oppose it.