Fast-tracking trade deals bad for Ohio


The growing power of the “buy local” movement in Ohio and throughout the country is nothing short of breathtaking.

Not only do local first efforts help grow and sustain the regional economy, they also help build a shared sense of community.

Through my role with Support Our Local Economy (SOLE), I get to see this growing movement’s impact every day. By connecting business owners with the information they need to use local vendors, and consumers with how they can support local businesses, we take advantage of the multiplier effect — by one estimate, 48 cents of every dollar spent at a local business gets reinvested, compared to 14 cents spent at a chain.

In Franklin County, for example, a 10 percent shift from chain or non-local businesses to local independent businesses will yield $312 million in local benefits and would generate 5,000 new jobs — meaning 5,000 new customers for local businesses. There’s no reason this couldn’t work in communities across the country.

Rather than be a number calling into customer service, you will be able to deal directly with staff that can help. Instead of wondering about the source of food on your family’s table, you can actually build a relationship with the farmers who grow and sell it. And rather than watching the dollars from your purchases flow overseas, your money can sustain a business which helps to expand the local economy.

But this movement is under threat by the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade deal that would be the largest trade agreement in U.S. history and encompass 12 nations from Asia to Latin America. There are many reasons to question both the substance of this trade pact and its secretive negotiating process.

These concerns are compounded by the TPP’s potential assault on basic American sovereignty, which could end up costing us jobs here in Ohio. Details in the leaked “Investment Chapter” of the TPP make clear that this trade pact would allow multinational and foreign corporations to challenge in a secret foreign trade tribunal any U.S. law, rule or regulation that could adversely impact the corporation’s “expected future profits” or that would pose a change to their “expectation of a stable regulatory environment.”

Imagine foreign companies with the authority to challenge laws passed by our national, state or local governments. Imagine these trade tribunals ordering the U.S. government to pay out cash compensation — our tax dollars — to those corporations. Imagine a local school system being sued because they want to get their vegetables from local farmers, or the state government taken to secret court because we want to use Ohio contractors for transportation projects.

Despite these problems, the TPP’s backers want to “fast track” this agreement and prevent members of Congress from amending or changing it. Congress is currently debating a fast track bill that would give the executive branch the opportunity to negotiate as many trade agreements as it can during a given time period and send them to Congress.

Doesn’t sound so bad? Well, under fast track, Congress could only vote yes or no on the agreement: They could not amend the agreement or send it back to the executive branch with instructions for improvement.

This is where our congressional delegation can stand up for us. The U.S. should not support provisions that allow corporations to sue sovereign nations before international tribunals. Any trade deal should support American companies doing right in their communities, not put them on an uneven playing field with international competitors. Congress should exercise its authority to regulate international trade, reject “fast track,” and encourage a public and accountable debate about the TPP.

If this deal is so good for American business, let’s see it out in the open.

Chuck Lynd is a board member of the Ohio Sustainable Business Council and director of the Support Our Local Economy (SOLE) business advocacy organization.

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