Letter - Negotiate trade agreements in the open

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There are two issues before Congress that have me worried — both will have long-term, global consequences.

First the nuclear deal with Iran. With this deal, the U.S. is making diplomatic progress with Iran. There is hope Iran’s nuclear ambitions will be permanently quashed without hostilities or deaths.

This unprecedented moment of cooperation is not the time to increase the sanctions against Iran. Luckily, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell seem to be heeding the advice of nine former U.S. ambassadors and other national security experts who recently warned: “(Increasing sanctions) would threaten the prospects for success in the current negotiations and thus present us and our friends with a stark choice — military action or living with a nuclear Iran.”

Senators, stand strong for cooperation, patience and peaceful negotiations.

Second, the fast track authorization for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP would establish a free-trade zone from Japan to the U.S. to Chile, which would be disastrous for workers and the environment.

Fast tracking the agreement means no amendments could be added and very little debate would be allowed before Congress votes up or down. Fast tracking takes power away from Congress, just when Congress’s oversight is most important.

NAFTA was foisted on us 20 years ago thanks to the fast-track system. Due to NAFTA, the U.S. lost nearly 700,000 jobs.

Sure, trade increased, but the few who benefited were top executives and CEOs. And now, after years of recession, the stock market is hitting record highs, but job growth is minimal and salaries are stagnant. American workers need help, big business does not.

NAFTA was bad, but the TPP would be worse. It makes the profit motive even more powerful. Corporations would be able to sue over laws that reduce their profits.

New regulations to protect citizens from the excesses of the financial industry could be swept away. We do not need to give big business and Wall Street more ways to exploit workers. People are more important than profits.

Congress must reject fast-track authorization so all can see what is in the new trade agreement and then decide if it is in the best interests of the American people.

The TPP was negotiated in secret. What is the government hiding from us? Now is the time to bring it out in the open.

Annie Capestany

Walla Walla

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