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Maine Business Leaders Speak Out on TPP

Small-business, agriculture, and labor leaders in Maine are responding to the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. The language in the free-trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim nations, including the US and Canada, was released this week.

Cynthia Phinney, the newly elected president of Maine AFL-CIO, says the agreement not only threatens American jobs but creates foreign import pressure that could hurt Maine's many small producers.

"It favors international corporations," she says. "It retains the investor state dispute settlement which allows foreign corporations to sue governments that may pass regulations or laws that they deem interfering with profits."

That may mean a loss of local control over things like labeling and branding, she says. And she says small farms and fishermen would face increased pressure from foreign imports.

Alex Jackimovicz, who sits on the Maine Small Business Coalition board, says the agreement holds little of use to Maine's many small businesses.

"In general the TPP caters to international corporate interest much more than to local economy interests," he says.

But the Maine Potato Board's Don Flannery says the agreement might be a good thing for his industry.

"We believe it will have a positive effect on the potato industry," he says. "Not necessarily a direct effect on Maine, but an indirect effect."

Flannery says as more American potatoes from places like California are shipped overseas, the more Maine can potentially expand into domestic markets. He says only Canada poses any serious competition.

The agreement now faces debate in Congress, which likely won't vote on the deal until spring.