April 22, 2016

Lawmaker’s Knowledge of Trade Agreement Questioned

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Vermont House Assembly

Vermont lawmakers met this week to confront how the state shall move forward on President Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP, a federal trade agreement between twelve nations surrounding the pacific rim including Mexico, Singapore, and Vietnam. The treaty has come under heavy scrutiny by state and federal legislators from both republican and democratic parties. Concerns over the economic impact the partnership may have on state economies has driven debate across the country and Vermont has been no exception. House Democrat Steven Berry of Bennington pleaded to congress to reject the partnership as a deal that only projects the economic will of corporations. Rep. Berry continued to project insecurities about how Vermont made products would fare over the TPP’s implementation, asking the congress if it were willing “to give up the Vermont brand name?… made in Vermont signifies quality.” The looming threat that local businesses would be damaged by the corporatization of national trade policies is very real, but the house and its parties are sharply divided on the issue. When Rep. Scheuermann of Stowe asked Rep. Berry “what nations are apart of the TPP?” he failed to provide an answer despite a well prepared speech on the entire topic. Even more, when Rep. Berry was asked “what taxes and tariffs were involved” in the partnership he failed again to provide an answer. While the divide on the issue is evident, the facts of the law clearly are not. The Obama Administration’s TPP appears to have attached to it a stigma that is rooted in incomplete truth; A rhetoric that bashes the trade agreement as a all-encompassing act of corporate greed, designed to suck profits from local industries. The reality to states like Vermont is, through all the claims posed in the state house, that the effect of such an act would have on local businesses is not fully understood and lawmakers are far from a consensus on what to do.

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