The Seattle city council just unanimously passed a resolution that comprises some of the strongest statements about the Trans-Pacific Partnership—and its twin proposal to speed the deal through Congress—a local governmental body has made. The TPP, a giant, hardly-transparent international trade deal currently being negotiated by the federal government, has inspired loud opposition from environmental and labor groups.
Despite what little we know about the deal, it would appear that all nine council members are wary of it, too.
Should Seattle have even stuck its nose in an international trade deal that we know so little about? Depends on who you ask, and we'll be unpacking more of what that means later. Council member Mike O'Brien, who helped bring the resolution before the council with Kshama Sawant, argued that even though the TPP doesn't "exist in any form we can meaningfully debate," the deal's lack of transparency is reason enough to be concerned.
Sawant framed the debate as one of corporate interests versus human ones. "Basically anyone who supports the rights of human beings and the environment is on one side of the debate," she said. And Nick Licata said that Seattle's position will send a strong message to Washington, DC. "I believe that the nation is looking at Seattle's vote today," he said. "We will continue to see this sort of struggle going on in the future, and the only thing that is going to really derail it is the mobilization of citizens in a democracy."
When the TPP resolution first came before a council committee, Tim Burgess voted "no." Since then, however, Burgess and O'Brien met to discuss changes, according to a source close to City Hall. Today, Burgess ended up voting "aye" on O'Brien and Sawant's resolution.
Here's a quick run-down of what the resolution says and what it means:
1. The city council opposes fast-track. That means they're opposing pressure from the Obama administration to pass the trade deal through Congress without amendments or filibusters—something critics of the fast-track authority say would allow the trade deal to steamroll democratic process.
2. Seattle loves fair trade! And the environment! And the judicial system! And the city does NOT like the investor-state dispute settlement language from a leaked draft section of the TPP, which, in theory, could undermine domestic or even city-level policies to protect workers' rights and the environment. (The likelihood of this happening in Seattle, it should be noted, depends on who you talk to. Because no one really knows anything about this freaking trade agreement.)
3. Seattle wants the Obama administration and US Trade Representative Michael Froman to negotiate a trade deal that abides by all of the values above.
4. *drum roll* And if the Obama administration DOES NOT abide by these here values, Seattle will ask Congress to reject the TPP.
There you have it. Shots fired. And, oh god, more shots needed as we attempt to understand this thing.
Read the full resolution here.
This post has been updated.