Local Electeds Hit Queens Congressman Over Support for Controversial Trade Deal

Congressman Gregory Meeks (Photo: Miguel Alvarez/AFP/Getty)

Congressman Gregory Meeks (Photo: Miguel Alvarez/AFP/Getty) Miguel Alvarez/AFP/Getty

A group of state and city legislators from Queens today released a letter to Congressman Gregory Meeks urging him to flip his current stance and vote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a free trade agreement backed by the Obama administration but opposed by numerous labor and environmental groups.

State Senators Joseph Addabbo, Tony Avella , James Sanders and Leroy Comrie, along with Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages and Councilmen Daneek Miller and Donovan Richards—all Democrats representing districts that overlap with Mr. Meeks’—co-signed the missive attacking the deal, which would ease trade barriers and a host of regulations between the United States, Australia and several Asian and Latin American nations. President Barack Obama and Democrats and Republicans supportive of the deal in Congress have pushed a bill that would grant “fast-track” authority to the administration.

Such power would permit the president to present the trade package to Congress as a purely yes-or-no vote, with little debate and no possibility of amending the arrangement.

“We are writing to urge you to oppose fast track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” the letter reads, going on to criticize the closed-door dealings that have forged the TPP. “The agreement is being negotiated with a lack of transparency, but we know that the TPP will affect jobs, environmental protections, prescription drug prices, financial industry regulations, internet freedom, food safety and much more.”

Most Democrats oppose the deal, but Mr. Meeks is a co-founder of the bipartisan four-member “Friends of the TPP” caucus, and recently joined Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin on a trip to Singapore promoting the pact. However, the state and city politicians alleged that the partnership’s impact would mirror that of the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in the 1990s with Mexico and Canada, and lead to the outsourcing of as much as 20 percent of American jobs—many of them from Queens.

“We cannot afford more outsourcing of good jobs,” the letter asserts. “Our constituents have already seen everything from manufacturing to call center and back office to medical technology jobs go overseas.”

Among the details of the proposal leaked to the public, the politicians singled out the Investor State Dispute Settlement proviso as particularly worrying. This statute, they warned, would lead to large companies suing countries with laws that impinge upon “expected future profits”—and would have impacts locally and nationally.

“These provisions could threaten everything from Buy America contracting provisions to New York State’s ban on hydro-fracking and setting discounted prices for vital prescription drugs to regulations to protect consumer from noxious financial industry practices,” they wrote.

The officials concluded by saying they were not advocating autarky, but argued the terms of the TPP in its present form grant too much power to business.

“We are all strongly supportive of trade across borders, but the rules of the road must be fair, not tilted in favor of multinational corporate interests,” their letter said. “We urge you to reconsider your stance on this vital issue.”

Mr. Meeks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Local Electeds Hit Queens Congressman Over Support for Controversial Trade Deal