Group delivers petitions to Zinke over ‘scary’ trade deal – Oct. 31, 2016

Northern Plains Resource Council

groupoutside_2016-10-31BILLINGS, Mont. —  Twenty-three citizens in Halloween costumes ranging from a zombie ballerina to Sully, the monster from the movie Monsters Inc., delivered a petition with hundreds of signatures today to U.S. House Rep. Ryan Zinke’s office in downtown Billings. Their message? The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal is SCARY!

The 6,000-plus pages of the trade deal, which encompasses 40% of the world’s economy as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), contains provisions to allow foreign corporations to challenge U.S. laws if they diminish their profits. This means that American environmental laws, food safety regulations, and more, will come under threat, according to the Northern Plains Resource Council, a conservation and family agriculture group based in Billings.

Stuart Shay of Billings, a Northern Plains board member, spoke on behalf of the group at Zinke’s office.

“This trade deal was written by Wall Street and multinational corporations that don’t care about our state’s best interests,” said Shay.  “As the owner of a small landscaping business here in Billings, I care deeply about our local economy and this community.  The TPP is a corporate power grab; it puts small businesses like mine and communities like ours on the back-burner in favor of global corporations.  We’ve seen the effect that a bad trade deal can have on Montana’s local economies: it’s scary.”

“We believe our community works well when we have economic sovereignty, and democracy isn’t shackled by international trade agreements,” Shay said.  “We urge Representative Zinke to vote ‘no’ on the TPP and stand up for us in Montana, and we ask him to be transparent with us about how he plans to vote.”

To date, Zinke has not taken a public position on the TPP even though the text has now been available for nearly a year.

The same provision (ISDS) allowing legal challenges by international corporations to U.S. laws is contained in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and allowed companies based in Canada and Mexico to successfully challenge the United States’ popular Country of Origin Law (COOL) which ensured meat labeling. These challenges go before an international tribunal rather than U.S. courts and are not appealable.

For the petition delivery delegation, timing is everything. President Obama intends to push the trade deal before Congress in the lame duck session following next week’s election. On Aug. 12, he issued notice via a Statement of Administrative Action which means that he may submit the legislation any day now. Then, it must be passed within 90 legislative days.

It will go to the House of Representatives for a vote before it goes to the Senate. Members of Congress do not have the ability to amend the bill’s language. It will be strictly an up or down vote.