Yesterday the U.S. Senate voted 92-0 to approve an amendment which adds a religious liberty provision to the overall negotiating objectives outlined in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The addition would require the Administration to take religious freedom into account whenever negotiating trade agreements within the partnership.
During a floor speech on the amendment earlier tonight, Senator James Lankford’s (R-OK) said, “Our greatest export is our American value. The dignity of each person, hard work, innovation, and liberty. That’s what we send around the world. It has the greatest impact.” Lankford added,
We believe every person should have protection of the government to live their faith, not the compulsion of government to practice any one faith or to be forced to reject all faith altogether. It’s one of the reasons that Americans are disturbed by the trend in our courts and military and public conversation. It’s not the task of government to purge religious conversation from public life. It is the task of government to protect the rights of every person to live their faith and to guard those who choose not to have any faith at all.
Although Trade Promotion Authority legislation guides the Executive Branch in defining negotiating objectives and negotiating trade agreements, Congress retains the authority to review and decide whether any proposed U.S. trade agreement, such as the TPP, will be implemented. The text of the amendment reads: “To establish consideration of the conditions relating to religious freedom of parties to trade negotiations as an overall negotiating objective of the United States.”
As WORLD magazine notes, the TPP pact would include Vietnam, a country the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that the State Department designate a “country of particular concern” for its regular violations of religious freedom.