As President Barack Obama heads to Bali this weekend to tout more global trade with Asia, critics today delivered a very different message: Slow down.
Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, worried how the U.S. can do more business with Vietnam.
"The typical wage in Vietnam, as we speak, is 25 cents an hour --- so here we go again," Cohen told reporters in a conference call.
Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut said she fears a new trade pact aimed at increasing exports to the Pacific Rim will instead deliver a flood of imported seafood to the U.S. And she noted that the U.S. has had to deny imported seafood from Vietnam in the past because it was contaminated.
"I get very, very concerned and scared ...What it will do is further jeopardize food safety," she told reporters.
It's all part of the growing angst surrounding Obama's plan to sign a huge trade deal with 11 countries, a pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. Obama plans to meet with heads of state from the nations involved in the deal as part of his Asian trip.
While the president says the pact would create more U.S. jobs by increasing opportunities for American businesses, opponents say it would lead to unfair competition and kill more U.S. jobs by sending more work overseas.
"There's no coherent economic policy here from the point of American workers, their standard of living and their jobs," Cohen said.
In the call organized by opponents, critics said the deal should be negotiated openly, not behind closed doors.
And they said no deal should be rushed through until the public has enough time to digest the implications and make sure that labor and environmental safeguards are protected.
But after 19 rounds of negotiations, Obama's team has been pushing to finalize a deal as soon as possible and to get a vote in Congress. Negotiations started four years ago.