Later today, governors from both parties will gather at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington D.C. for an evening with powerful corporate lobbyists and businessmen to discuss a new free trade deal. Trade officials from the Obama administration are expected to brief attendees with information of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a new trade agreement that has been discussed since last year.

The Trans-Pacific trade agreement is rumored to open up Vietnam and seven Pacific Rim countries as a low-cost alternative to Chinese labor. However, as Public Citizen points out, even members of Congress have not seen the details of the proposal.

The event features Governors Steve Beshear (D-KY), Terry Branstad (R-IA), Matt Mead (R-WY), Bev Perdue (D-NC), Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) Gary Herbert (R-UT), who will be joined by John Engler, a lobbyist who heads the Business Roundtable, a corporate influence peddling group that counts major CEOs as members. Corporations sponsoring the event include Amgen, GE, Intuit, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, TIA, Chevron, Target, and Phillip Morris International. Industry lobbying groups PhrMA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are also listed as sponsors.

There is a concern that the free trade agreement could kill jobs and depress American wages. CBS Evening News reported that the deal will eliminate a tariff on Vietnamese shoes, which will cut domestic jobs at firms like New Balance.

Some governors are beginning to take heat for developing a “NAFTA-like agreement” behind closed doors. “These D.C. corporate lobbyists want Gov. Branstad to trade ‘Buy America’ provisions and state sovereignty for a fancy $1,500-a-plate dinner at the Willard Hotel,” Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach told the Quad City Times, a newspaper in Iowa.

The dinner tonight is called the “Governors and Ambassadors Trade Reception,” an event organized by the Washington International Trade Association. Last year, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) opened the dinner by declaring: “trade is not a partisan issue.”

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Filed under: Lobbying

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