Congressman Rangel: Your leadership is needed again

Cecil Corbin-Mark and Stephanie Low | 3/31/2016, 3:52 p.m.
Even in the midst of a fiercely fought battle for the presidency, one thing hasn’t changed.
Congressman Charles B. Rangel Bill Moore

Even in the midst of a fiercely fought battle for the presidency, one thing hasn’t changed. Despite opposition from both Democratic presidential candidates, the Administration and some members of Congress are pushing a toxic new trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that encompasses the United States and 11 other countries—Mexico, Canada, Japan, Vietnam, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, Chile, Malaysia, Peru and New Zealand.

This trade agreement, the largest ever written, makes the North American Free Trade Agreement look like a mustard seed. Twenty years ago, NAFTA promised economic prosperity and new American jobs by opening trade with Canada and Mexico. We didn’t get new jobs—in fact, we lost plenty—and only got new problems. Subsequent trade deals draw on the NAFTA playbook and have only compounded those problems.

What have these agreements actually done for New York? According to a study by Public Citizen based on federal data, they cost our state 377,000 manufacturing jobs; led to big drops in major New York exports such as cattle, corn and apples; improved exports for corporations but not small and mid-sized businesses; and sent inequality soaring. The top 10 percent of New Yorkers now earn more than half of our state’s total income dollars every year.

Congressman Rangel, as your constituents, we have had good reason to thank you in these pages more than once. You twice took a principled stand against the Fast Track bill that eliminated Congress’s ability to amend the TPP. You are well-known in Congress for your leadership in opposing this terrible trade deal, which will cost more jobs, risk food safety, threaten the environment and increase prescription drug prices in our community.

We know you are aware and opposed to these threats by hearing your informative and heartfelt talk in January at the Fort Washington Senior Center. You spoke about TPP’s ability, among other things, to challenge and undermine our health, safety and environmental laws in foreign courts. Your concerns are echoed in resolutions opposing the TPP by New York legislative bodies in Syracuse, Albany, Babylon, Tompkins County and the NY City Council.

Since we last wrote to you here in the Amsterdam News, we’ve seen new examples of the dangers the TPP poses to our communities. Just recently the Canadian corporation behind the toxic Keystone XL pipeline filed a $15 billion suit to challenge President Obama’s decision not to permit the expansion of the pipeline. If they win, we either pay up or let the pipeline go through, threatening our homes and water and doing irreversible damage to the climate.

There is no good reason in the world for us to sign another bad trade deal that will multiply the misery brought to us by NAFTA. The TPP will allow more than 3,000 corporations doing business in New York to bring similar lawsuits. If the TPP passes, we could be sued far more often than in the past when our agreements were mostly with developing nations that had few businesses here.

What kind of arguments are there for passing another, bigger version of this terrible deal? There are other options out there for ramping up our economy—your own suggestions for more education and training, for repairing our crumbling infrastructure.

Congressman, your leadership is essential. Before you leave office, what we want and need from you is your unconditional public pledge to vote against the TPP.

We ask that you let us join you—WEACT, the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Food & Water Watch, NYS Alliance for Retired Americans, MoveOn NYC Councils, AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America, Teamsters Local 1, Big Apple Coffee Party—in hosting a town hall meeting to inform our community’s residents and leaders about the TPP and why you oppose it.

We need you to fight for us the way you fought for us in the Korean War. Can we count on you, as in the past, to make this pledge a centerpiece of your impressive legacy and safeguard not only our community but our beloved country as well?

Cecil Corbin-Mark is Deputy Director & Director of Policy Initiatives for WE-ACT, and Stephanie Low is Chair of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter‘s TPP Task Force.