The United States is currently working to sign the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation trade agreement that by eliminating “tariffs and other barriers to goods and services trade and investment”, may result in risks for food safety in the US, says Democratic Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT).

According an interview with Julian Hattem of RegWatch, “The Hill’s Regulation Blog,” “DeLauro is concerned that poor food safety regulations in some countries taking part in the talks could put Americans at risk and said that a process being supported by the U.S. Trade Representative would ‘further jeopardize food safety.’

‘This is an area where I believe that trade is trumping public health in a very significant way,’ DeLauro said Thursday. [ ] She added that the Obama administration is not taking a long-term strategy to protect food safety in the trade deal by beefing up domestic inspection efforts.

‘This deal will lead to an influx of seafood imports from Asia, and we should therefore enhance funding for food safety at the FDA,’ she said. ‘We’re at a government shutdown here at the moment. They’ve been trying to starve FDA of resources at the best of times.’”  [Full article: House Dem: Asia trade deal would threaten food safety]

Watchdog organization Food and Water Watch makes the following statement on the TPP: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) would lead to increased gas exports and imported foods, while weakening our nation’s domestic laws and increasing the financialization of nature. Ten Pacific Rim countries and the United States are currently negotiating the TPP, while TAFTA is between the United States and the European Union. Both are advertised as bold new ways to eliminate tariffs, import quotas and preferences on goods and services. And if put into action, they’ll serve as the models for future global trade deals.

In reality, the TPP and TAFTA are power grabs by corporations and their financers. They would challenge laws that protect the environment, rein in corporate interests, protect food safety, promote renewable energy, and curb risky practices such as fracking.”

Though allegations of a corporate power grab may be questionable, Food Safety News references a letter by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Congressman Walter Jones (R-N.C.),  submitted to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, that in a push to secure tighter food safety laws for imports from Malaysia and Vietnam, cites in FY2012, “imported seafood products from Vietnam, the fifth largest exporter of shrimp to the United States, were refused entry 206 times because of concerns including filth, decomposition, drug residues, unapproved food additives and Salmonella.”  Clearly, we have reason to maintain strict safety standards for food imports.

So, while expansions in free trade can be beneficial to a single nation’s economy or the international economy, it is important that we do not overlook the costs at which such expansions may come.  For more information on the Trans Pacific Partnership and its impact on food safety, follow the links below.

Office of the United States Trade Representative – “Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)”

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations”

Public Citizen – “Trans Pacific Partnership”

Economic Times – “US pushes for trans-Pacific Partnership trade agenda despite shutdown”