TPP Fast-Track Bill Raises Serious LGBTQ Concerns
The upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Fast-Track bill is stirring much controversy as it works its way to the House floor; the bill could be voted on this week. If passed, the bill would create special rules empowering the White House to negotiate and sign trade agreements without Congressional oversight. This means that international trade deals could be made relatively in “secret” with limited ability for Congress to accept or reject it.
TPP Fast-Track impacts not only international trade, but also raises significant concerns for human rights. Specifically, the bill would open the door for agreements with countries who are actively against LGBTQ rights such as Brunei and Malaysia. Last year, the sultan of Brunei implemented a law that made “homosexual acts” punishable by stoning and Malaysia punishes LGBTQ sexual acts by imprisonment and whipping.
Just yesterday, June 9, the White House issued a fact sheet to address the many human rights concerns associated with the TPP. In it, the White House discusses that it plans to work with TPP-included countries to conform to the “uniformly recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The fact sheet states that the TPP will enforce many labor, anti-trafficking, and transparency standards.
The bill could also pose substantial healthcare ramifications. According to the New York Times, pharmaceutical companies, insurers, and large manufacturers are among those who stand to benefit best from bill. By giving countries more trade leeway, companies may restrict access, skyrocket prices, or eliminate lower-cost HIV medications for those who need it most.
A broad coalition of advocates have spoken their opposition to the bill, including Feminist Majority, Communications Workers of America, and Pride at Work. Last February, five members of the LGBT Equality Caucus wrote the President a letter, showing opposition to Brunei and Malaysia’s inclusion in the bill. Here is the letter:
Congressmen Jared Polis also communicated his concerns in a letter to the President. You can find his letter here: http://www.washingtonblade.com/content/files/2015/02/Brunei-Malaysia-TPP-letter_Final_Signed-2.pdf
The United States has made great strides to recognize LGBTQ rights both domestically and internationally, but many claim that TPP Fast-Track appears to be a serious step in the wrong direction.
As the TPP Fast-Track bill is under review in the House of Representatives, we urge you to contact your local Congressman and share your concerns.
by Beckham Rivera, National LGBTQ Task Force Holley Law Fellow