President Obama: Catholics Oppose Fast Tracking the TPP

04/27/2015 12:02 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2015

In an interview on MSNBC's "Hardball", President Obama defended the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP)-- claiming only labor and some progressives opposed it. That simply isn't the case. For years, Catholics in particular have been consistently vocal in opposing several provisions of the far-reaching, multinational TPP trade proposal. Some of the most controversial provisions of the TPP deal with medical care, immigration and the environment: issues Catholics, and other faith groups, care deeply about. With the livelihood of millions being affected in any final trade deal, Catholics voiced concern over President Obama seeking "fast track" trade promotion authority (TPA) from Congress.

Catholics who believe in promoting the common good will continue to oppose fast track authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a whole until the secretive process surrounding its passage cease immediately.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops(USCCB) issued a statement on the president's proposed TPP trade agreement. While the USCCB took no stance on fast tracking the TPP, it stated, "we are concerned about the moral and human implications of the limits and parameters that may be set in the pending legislation for the rapid negotiation of such specific agreements, and their potential effect on human life, human dignity and the right of people to participate in decisions that impact them."

At the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, delivered a critique of trade deals like the TPP. Archbishop Tomasi stated the "most damaging concessions developing countries make in regional and bilateral agreements are those enhancing the monopolies on life-saving medicines, which reduce access and affordability and those that provide excessive legal rights to foreign investors."

An article for the Guardian earlier this year confirmed the fears of Archbishop Tomasi. Leaked documents of the TPP included provisions which protect pharmaceutical monopolies and delay the release of cheaper drugs in Australia.

The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach wrote an article last October expressing concerns the TPP would weaken environmental standards and allow corporations to operate in partner countries with little oversight. Furthermore, they claim provisions in the TPP would put the legal rights of corporations over that of individuals and governments.

In February, Catholic groups joined an interfaith coalition in writing a letter to members of Congress asking them to oppose fast track. The letter stressed trade deals must "be mutually beneficial to all countries and peoples, particularly those living in marginalized communities, not just the wealthy." The letter went on to compare the TPP to the controversial history of the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA).

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK and leader of "Nuns on the Bus", recently wrote an article for The Hill in which she laid out the Catholic opposition to fast-tracking the TPP. Sister Campbell believes a trade deal affecting millions can't be negotiated in secret. She states, "Let the voices of all people be heard so that we might look out for our livelihoods and protect one another."

Prior to this article, NETWORK, along with several other Catholic groups, released a statement in March declaring the TPP investment chapter unjust. The statement claimed the chapter would put profit before people.

Michael Sean Winters of National Catholic Reporter makes a political case for opposing the TPP in his latest article. Winters calls on Democrats to show unity in opposing the TPP because the deal goes against the very principles President Franklin D. Roosevelt built the modern Democratic party upon: working to uplift the average citizen. Winters points to former governor of Maryland and likely 2016 presidential candidate, Martin O'Malley, as a Catholic political leader opposed to fast tracking the TPP.

On April 16th, after it was announced a deal had been reached to introduce fast track authority legislation in Congress, Pennsylvania Democratic Senator and Catholic, Robert Casey said, "Over and over again, we've been told that trade deals will create jobs and better protect workers and the environment. Those promises have never come to fruition."

On Tuesday, Catholic and Anglican bishops in New Zealand urged greater transparency surrounding the TPP negotiations. While they acknowledged the right of governments to promote trade, the bishops were concerned with the lack of transparency and public involvement during negotiations. Furthermore, while they acknowledged traditional trade deals are done in secret; the TPP could infringe on the domestic laws of individual nations. The bishops were also concerned the TPP will adversely affect the poor.

Catholics committed to the common good reject the assumption by President Obama only labor and progressive groups primarily care about controversial provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Catholics have voiced their concerns about the TPP in the past and will continue to do so in the hopes their voices will be finally heard.