By Cody Harris
Teamster at Fred Meyer

The TPP is dead, international trade and future trade deals are alive and well

International trade is a key driver of Washington State’s economy with two out of every five jobs in Washington tied to trade. Furthermore, Washington is the gateway to Asia and is home to a wide diversity of businesses that leverage that position in global markets. This positioning means that 25% of jobs related to trade in Washington State are directly linked to imports.

The Trans Pacific Partnership is a multi-national trade agreement between twelve of the Pacific Rim countries including Canada, Mexico and Japan with the United States.

The TPP was opposed by a large, diverse group of unions, citizens and organizations in this country and around the world to include the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, AFL-CIO, Washington Fair Trade Coalition and the Citizens Trade Campaign (CTC), both groups in which I am active.

The TPP and international trade had also become a much debated and contentious issue during the recent American political campaign for the presidency, mainly tied to American jobs and off-shoring issues.  The TPP encompassed so much more, such as, labor rights and standards, human rights, environmental protections, food and water standards and reduction of trade barriers and increases in the Investor-State Dispute Settlement tribunal.

However, at this time the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty appears not to be on the agenda for the United States Congress for passage during the current session and the President-elect has pledged that the TPP will not be promoted or ratified by his administration. 

International trade and trade agreements will still occur and it will be a major part of Washington state economy, therefore, such agreements must start and finish with the state’s workers and their families in mind.

That is why Teamsters 117 sent me to a three day conference to Washington D.C. with the Washington Fair Trade Coalition and CTC for training and planning sessions on future trade agreements and to meet with some of Washington State’s congressional delegation to discuss union, trade and worker issues.

The conference included activists, both union and non-union, from around the country that had defeated the TPP.  It started with a review of the successful multi-year campaigns to mobilize, educate and eventually defeat the TPP.  Strategies most effective were analyzed so that they could be employed in future fights against unfair trade deals and the possible renegotiation of current trade treaties, both multinational and bilateral. 

During this visit I also met with Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Denny Heck where I had very productive conversations concerning unions, jobs and trade impacting Washington State and the country.  I also had interactions with Senator Cantwell and Congresswoman Del Benne and Congressman Reichert or their staff, both in DC and locally, and will be following up with all of them frequently.

Teamsters Local 117 is a large and diverse local and I encourage all members to actively engage with their members of Congress on issues concerning unions, families, jobs or anything else that may interest you.  I can personally attest that our state’s politicians, at all levels, want to interact with their constituents and appreciate those connections.

Finally, I want to thank Teamsters 117 for the opportunity to further my education, commitment and work on trade issues as they concern union members and their families. This valuable experience has strengthened my resolve that international trade must never neglect the rights and well-being of the American worker or exploit workers in any other country.