As the former co-chairs of Maine’s Citizens Trade Policy Commission, we have heard heartbreaking hours of testimony from Maine people whose lives were torn apart by trade deals negotiated in Washington. Now, yet another trade deal is on the verge of approval and, once again, its language was written — in secret — by multinational companies, lobbyists and big-money special interests.

We are appalled that Congressman Bruce Poliquin, who represents Maine’s 2nd District, is trying to score political points after failing to present any meaningful opposition to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Mainers know the impact that trade deals similar to the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership can have in this state, because we have seen it before. Maine towns and mills have been gutted by trade agreements that incentivized big companies to send Maine jobs overseas.

We have known for decades that the so-called benefits of these deals never exceed the costs, including the closure of Madison paper or loss of mills in Old Town or Bucksport. When jobs move overseas, it devastates whole communities.

There is only one way to stop such deals. The people of Maine have to speak up and their elected officials have to act strongly and act early. But while Mainers have been speaking up on the issue, Poliquin has been missing in action.

The reality is that Poliquin — a former Wall Street banker who has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from big companies — has earned an unfortunate reputation for saying one thing during an election but doing the opposite once in Congress. He has also earned a reputation for dallying and playing political games with vital policy.

In this case, Maine people have been pleading for years with their representatives to protect Maine interests, not corporate profits. But it took Poliquin until just two weeks ago to come out against the deal. A full year ago, New Balance told Poliquin that TPP might force them to move jobs out of Maine and overseas. Poliquin responded that he was “undecided.”

He says that he made his decision after he “pored through” the deal. This is absurd. Anyone who has ever seen a few lines of a trade agreement knows that they are nearly-unintelligible legalese, understandable by only a handful of highly trained lawyers.

The truth is, Poliquin needed to stay neutral on the deal for as long as possible while he raked in campaign contributions from his friends at the big companies that will benefit from it. Now that it is election season, Poliquin is singing a different tune.

This is not the first time that Congressman Poliquin has waffled in situations that threaten Maine jobs. It is a pattern. Last year, the Export-Import Bank — which helps Maine companies sell their goods overseas — was up for reauthorization. General Electric said they would have to cut 80 jobs in Bangor without it. Others were equally at risk.

Poliquin waffled back and forth for months, pushing his own agenda while good-paying jobs in Bangor were on the line. He opposed it, then he said he didn’t, then he left himself “wiggle room.” He voted 10 times to block reauthorization. It was only when his job was on the line and the negative newspaper articles started coming in that he voted for it. Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Angus King, and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree all voted for reauthorization without playing political games along the way.

Together, we have spent decades working on trade issues. If there is one thing we have learned, it is this: you don’t stop a bad deal by dithering for years before jumping in at the end of the debate. You stop it by making it crystal clear from day one that you will lead a ferocious and untiring fight to shut down any deal that harms Maine’s workers.

The fight to block TPP isn’t over. Maine needs leaders who have spoken with clarity on this issue. Maine needs leaders who were on the right side of this fight from the beginning.

And when the next trade deal comes — and it will — it will be the same bad deal as the ones that came before it. It will be written by Bruce Poliquin’s corporate friends and designed to increase their own profit at the expense of small towns across Maine and across the United States.

When that deal is being written, those lobbyists need to know that Maine’s leaders will instantly and judiciously reject any deal that threatens Maine jobs. The people of Maine need a credible and reliable hand on the tiller. Unfortunately, Bruce Poliquin has proven incapable of providing that leadership.

Maine State Sen. John Patrick and former Maine State Sen. Troy Jackson are the former co-chairs of the Citizens Trade Policy Commission, a bipartisan commission established to protect Maine jobs by evaluating trade deals and advocating on behalf of Maine’s working people.


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