NEW YORK – Today, more than 29 cities across the U.S. are joining a Global Day of Action against toxic trade agreements. The protests were called for by groups in Indonesia as the World Trade Organization begins meetings in Bali, with numerous campaigns in the US organizing events locally. The protests also precede negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) set to begin in Singapore on Dec. 7th.
In Washington, DC, advocates will deliver a petition signed by more than 2,000 people to the US Trade Representative, demanding that negotiator Stan McCoy stop pressuring countries to accept pharmaceutical policies that protect profits at the expense of people’s lives. They will also deliver a second petition, signed by 42,000, demanding transparency by releasing the text of the agreement.
The protests are occurring shortly after Wikileaks released the TPP’s chapter on intellectual property, which revealed far-reaching and damaging effects on everything from civil liberties and internet privacy to biological patents and copyrights. Criticism around the TPP negotiations’ unprecedented secrecy has since grown, with experts across the United States and the world demanding increased transparency for policymakers, the media and the public.
Protesters in the US have particular concerns around President Obama’s request that Congress grant the administration Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Also known as Fast Track, TPA seeks to expedite the passage of a free trade agreement by undermining constitutional checks and balances, limiting the number of days Congress is allowed to consider the text, and preventing members from making amendments.
Though supporters of Fast Track hoped to see related legislation introduced by the end of the year, recent letters to President Obama signed by 180 members of Congress reflect growing bi-partisan opposition to Fast Track. Representatives have cited the damaging impacts of other trade agreements – such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which resulted in the loss of 600,000 U.S. jobs – as an indication of the need for sufficient congressional oversight and assurance that past mistakes will not be repeated. Members also point out that under the Commerce Clause, Congress has responsibility to regulate trade between nations.
Today’s protests demonstrate U.S. residents’ equal frustration with the dangerous free trade policies of both the past and present. From Honolulu, HI to New York, NY, participants including health practitioners, students, communication workers, and more will gather in public spaces to highlight the loss of jobs, threats to national sovereignty, and economic and health consequences likely to result from trade agreements including the TPP.
Dr. Margaret Flowers requested a meeting with US Assistant Trade Representative Stan McCoy to deliver the petitions and convey her concerns about the direction that the TPP is going. She states, “It is extremely disappointing that the Office of the US Trade Rep is forcing through patent protections that violate international norms in order to protect the profits of large corporations. They are essentially trading away people’s lives at home and abroad for profits. This is unacceptable. We are calling for a respectful, democratic and transparent process.”