U.S. unions, lawmakers vow scrutiny of Pacific trade pact

Thu Nov 5, 2015 5:19pm EST
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By Krista Hughes and Matt Siegel

WASHINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) - U.S. unions, lawmakers and interest groups questioned the long-awaited text of a landmark Pacific trade deal on Thursday, setting up a potentially difficult path to ratification by the United States, the biggest of the 12 partners.

Arguments over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, aimed at cutting taxes and tariffs on commerce in 40 percent of the world's economy, are set to focus on transparency and how the pact affects workers and businesses.

"It's worse than we thought,” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, told reporters on a conference call after examining the full text of the pact, which was unveiled early on Thursday.

U.S. labor representatives, who had already voiced opposition to the deal, said the agreement contained weak, poorly worded or unenforceable provisions.

"There are improvements, but we do not believe those improvements are significant or meaningful for workers,” Celeste Drake, trade and globalization policy specialist at the AFL-CIO, said on the same call.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who championed the deal and needs to muster support among moderates in Washington to ensure ratification, formally notified Congress in a letter on Thursday that he intends to sign the deal.

The notice starts a 90-day clock before his signature triggers the next step in a process of seeking final congressional approval.

"The TPP means that America will write the rules of the road in the 21st century," Obama said in a post online. "If we don't pass this agreement - if America doesn’t write those rules - then countries like China will."   Continued...

Trade ministers from a dozen Pacific nations in Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministers meeting post in TPP Ministers "Family Photo" in Atlanta, Georgia October 1, 2015.   REUTERS/USTR Press Office/Handout