Congressman Rick Larsen is doing something this week his congressional colleagues from Washington and around the country are not.
He’s talking about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, a mega-pact negotiated by the administration of President Barack Obama with 11 Asian and Pacific Rim nations.
More precisely, Larsen is asking constituents for their opinion of the proposed deal spelled out in roughly 6,000 mind-numbing pages made public a week ago.
These are not intended to be idle exercises in faux democracy. Congress will be voting early next year to ratify or reject the pact.
“I am taking a hard look at TPP,” Larsen said in a statement posted on his congressional website. “People can and should read the TPP text for themselves. Everything in the agreement will be available to the public for at least three months before Congress can vote on it.”
Larsen’s reading it and evaluating how it might affect the paychecks of workers and profits of companies in the district.
And those could be huge.
The Wall Street Journal reported in June that four of the 10 congressional districts with the most rapid growth in exports between 2006 and 2013 were in Washington. And of those, the fastest rise occurred in Larsen’s, which is home to the Boeing Co. plant in Everett.
And his district leads the country in the number of jobs supported by exports to Asia, according to the East-West Center, an education research organization created by Congress (The tally includes exports to China, which is not a TPP party).
The agreement is between the U.S. and these countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The U.S. already trades with these countries and supporters argue the TPP will push exports higher.
It will erase trade barriers and boost business for farmers, manufacturers, software firms and aerospace suppliers in the district and throughout Washington. Economists contend an increase in exports will incite creation of new jobs.
Opponents worry the pact won’t stop corporations from moving jobs out of the U.S. nor ensure the signing nations match this country’s worker and environmental protection rules.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers 751 and the Sierra Club are among an alliance of labor and environmental organizations opposed to the deal.
They also have a pretty good following in Larsen’s district and are spreading the word about the upcoming meetings.
An estimated 100 people politely gave the congressman an earful in Anacortes Tuesday.
“Great dialogue where people challenged me, I challenged some folks, and we produced a good set of questions for follow-up,” Larsen wrote on Facebook afterwards.
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; email@example.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos