How Can We Combat Obama's Secret 'NAFTA of the Pacific'?
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The commission’s mandate is to monitor and respond to the effects of international trade on Maine, with input from diverse sectors of the population and regular hearings to educate both legislators and the public.
The commission now consists of legislators from both major parties and representatives of small farmers, small business, a nonprofit fair-trade organization, a Maine-based corporation engaged in international trade, a Maine-based manufacturer, an economic development organization, organized labor, a human rights organization, and an environmental organization, along with a health care professional.
Since its establishment in 2003, the commission has worked mostly by consensus and has taken positions supported by the full spectrum of commissioners, including the legislators from both parties.
Probably because of this broad support, the commission has helped to move Maine’s two Republican senators to vote against some trade agreements, including the 2005 Central America deal. The commission also helped put a Maine legislator on the national committee that advises U.S. trade negotiators.
The commission’s public hearings have made its legislators see how these agreements impact Mainers and the potential of our legislature to truly govern. Most Maine residents are all too aware of the job losses in our pulp, paper, and shoe industries as it has become easier to move those jobs. But many learned for the first time at a hearing that, for instance, Maine’s apple growers are increasingly struggling against fruit imported from China.
This kind of basic, ongoing assessment of trade deals and education about their effects is necessary but not sufficient to the task of creating a new framework for international trade that puts the needs of communities and the environment ahead of the profits of multinationals.
Cynthia Phinney is a member of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1837 in Maine and New Hampshire. She served as the labor representative on the Maine Citizen Trade Policy Commission 2003-2010. Find out more about the TPP and get involved at citizen.org/trade. Information on the Maine commission can be found at maine.gov/legis/opla/citpol.htm.