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A protest against Fast Track, with Seattle's Space Needle in the background. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)

Seattle City Council Unanimously Declares Opposition to Fast Track, TPP

"Few things counterpose the interests of multinational corporations to the interests of workers, the environment, and democracy" like the TPP, says councilmember Kshama Sawant

Deirdre Fulton

The Seattle City Council resoundingly approved a resolution Monday evening cementing its opposition to so-called Fast Track authority that's needed to speed passage of corporate-friendly, rights-trampling trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The resolution (pdf), which passed the nine-member council unanimously, expresses concern with the "closed-door manner" in which that 12-nation pact is being brokered, as well as its potential to "undermine local governmental authority to create reasonable rules and regulations, including those related to environmental safeguards, future climate policy, and food safety standards."

Furthermore, it outright opposes Fast Track authority, which would allow the TPP to be finalized with no opportunity for Congress to amend, review, or debate it. Lawmakers are expected to take up Fast Track as soon as they return from Easter recess on April 13.

"Few things counterpose the interests of multinational corporations to the interests of workers, the environment, and democracy as sharply as trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership," said councilmember Kshama Sawant, a co-sponsor of the measure. "I am excited to support environmental activists, labor unions and social justice organizations that have brought to light what big business always intended to be a secret trade treaty."

From The Stranger, here's a summary of the resolution's major points, and their implications:

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.

"We have been incredibly innovative in Seattle with our sick leave policies, the $15 minimum wage, and our local hire provisions," pointed out Lynne Dodson, secretary-treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council. "That’s why it's so important for our city council to speak out against national policies that could jeopardize these strong standards."

While the resolution is mostly symbolic, supporters cited the large volume of foreign trade in the city as justification for Seattle taking a stand on the issue.

According to a city council press release, Washington is "a trade-dependent state," in which at least 40 percent of jobs are directly or indirectly related to international trade. In the last decade, the council states, Washington exports grew 176 percent, from $29.6 billion in 2004 to $81.6 billion in 2013.

"I am pro-trade," insisted councilmember Mike O'Brien, the resolution's other co-sponsor. "And I believe the U.S. can negotiate truly progressive trade deals. But I oppose Fast Track for the TPP because Seattle has some of the highest environmental and labor standards in the country, and it is critical that multinational corporations do not have the power to undermine our laws or values."

The Seattle resolution comes on the heels of a similar measure opposing Fast Track unanimously passed by the city council in northern Washington's Bellingham last week.

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