The Democratic National Committee debated trade policy in its platform debates yesterday.
The divide was between explicit opponents and implicit opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – with both wanting to go further than the softly critical language in the July 1 draft platform.
Ben Jealous (former head of the NAACP) was in the former camp.
Both were A Bernie Sanders supporter, he wanted the Democrats to state unequivocally that they oppose the trade deal. Both He raised the specter of a Trump/ GOP Platform that went further than the Democrats on the issue. The Sanders camp highlighted the amendment as a priority for the campaign.
Lee Saunders, head of the AFSCME labor union and a Hillary supporter, was in the latter camp. As John Nichols reported:
Saunders offered an amendment to add strong language declaring that trade agreements “must not undermine democratic decision making through special privileges and private courts for corporations, and trade negotiations must be transparent and inclusive. Democrats’ priority is to significantly strengthen enforcement of existing trade rules and strengthen the tools we have, including by holding countries accountable on currency manipulation and significantly expanding enforcement resources.” Outlining labor, environment and currency manipulation standards, and calling for “streamlined and effective enforcement mechanisms” that “protect workers and the environment,” the amendment insisted that “These are standards all Democrats believe should be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
This language takes the previously obscure issue of investor-state dispute settlement (where companies sue countries outside of national courts) and puts it front and center in a critical way. Notably, the Saunders amendment (it’s long I’ll post full text when it’s available) also applies this standard to all past agreements. Union advocates touted that as a more comprehensive and forward looking proposal than just saying what they were against.
The Saunders proposal passed by a wide margin, but the Jealous proposal failed.
See the long debate here:
The Clinton campaign rapidly applauded passage of the Saunders amendment, saying:
“Hillary Clinton’s position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership is well-established and well-known: she opposes TPP, before or after the election. Hillary Clinton has made clear that she is not interested in tinkering around the margins with TPP and believes we need a new approach to trade that protects American jobs, raises incomes for American workers, and strengthens our national security.
“We are proud to stand with our friends in organized labor in passing a strong amendment to the Democratic Platform on all trade deals, including the TPP, introduced by AFSCME’s Lee Saunders, which was backed full-throatedly by unions and other delegates in the room. With the amendment, the platform lays out a clear, high test for judging trade agreements, including whether they raise wages, create good-paying jobs, and enhance our national security. She believes that the TPP fails the test that is now laid out in the platform as a result of this amendment.”
Right afterwards, Sanders supporter Jim Hightower tried a second time to get a Jealous-style amendment through. This too failed. See the full video here.