Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and how to grow Wisconsin’s economy in a meeting Monday with the Wisconsin State Council of Machinists.

Joseph Conti, University of Wisconsin sociology and law assistant professor, said the TPP is a free-trade agreement that involves 12 countries on the Pacific rim. It would apply several strategies to lower barriers to trade including lowering tariffs in some areas, strengthening intellectual property rights and creating provisions for investment protections, he said.

Trans-Pacific Partnership could lead to an increase in American dairy exportsAn international trade agreement may expand trading opportunities for America’s dairyland, but some experts say the total impact will be Read…

Feingold said he is strongly opposed to the partnership because it would dislocate trade in Wisconsin, leading to a loss of at least 535 jobs in Wausau, 900 in Janesville and 2,471 in Appleton alone. This would negatively impact middle class families because it would decrease job security, he said.

“People want fairness and people want change and what I’m hearing is that we do not have fairness when it comes to middle class and working families being able to pay their bills and make ends meet,” Feingold said.

Feingold said past trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994, which liberalized trade between Mexico, Canada and the U.S. and allowed corporations to seek government help for lost profits, also “gut[ted]” Wisconsin’s middle class. Many would move to other places, funding for school programs would be affected and local businesses would shut down because of trade dislocation, he added.

Having traveled the state and interacted with local communities, Feingold said the impact of previous trade agreements is still being felt today. 

Despite the impact, he said people are still willing to push forward, with many employers hiring new workers and entrepreneurs starting new businesses.

Feingold said he introduced the Badger Innovation Plan to help Wisconsin businesses sell their products to other countries and maintain jobs.

Conti said the TPP would not create a huge strain on Wisconsin’s economy and jobs but would open them up to international competition.

Incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, supports the TPP and voted to fast-track the deal. The partnership has bipartisan proponents who believe it would protect workers, environment and benefit middle class and working families.

But Feingold said the proponents “couldn’t have been more wrong,” calling it a “terrible deal.”

Feingold said merely stating that workers would be protected without providing a mechanism to ensure this as the TPP does is not enough. He said he would like to actual worker protections enforced.

“It’s time to oppose the TPP, because we should be exporting Wisconsin products, not Wisconsin jobs,” Feingold said.