|OpEdNews Op Eds 8/10/2014 at 08:59:46||
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In September 2013 activists covered the national office of the US Trade Representative with four banners exposing the secret Trans Pacific Partnership.
(image by Anne Meador of the DC Media Group)
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
The moment facing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its sibling the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (known as ‘TAFTA’) and the future approach to trade is reaching a critical stage. The TPP and TAFTA are attempts to get past the failed World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, but like the WTO, these new agreements are meeting significant opposition and obstacles. We are poised to stop these attempts to rig the international economy in favor of multinational corporations and move to a new model of trade that respects the rights of people and nature, but it will take a coordinated effort. We must be prepared for moves to thwart that effort and organize to avoid them.
The TPP and TAFTA represent a new era of deception and back-room dealing to pass laws that have nothing to do with trade, but that hand even greater power to multinational corporations to profit from everything no matter the consequences for the health of people and the planet. For the first time, the text of the agreements has been classified and they are being negotiated in secret with hundreds of corporate advisers and minimal involvement by Congress. In order to complete the agreements without transparency and public input, the President has asked Congress to grant him the authority to sign them, ‘Fast Track,’ a form of Trade Promotion Authority.
As elections get closer, Democratic Party leaders in Congress are getting the message out to inside-the-beltway activists groups that they are unifying to support giving President Obama some form of Fast Track. Recent letters from member of Congress to the President indicate support for trade with particular stipulations, but the overall message is to continue negotiating. Washington advocacy groups believe that they must also show support for Fast Track or they will find themselves without access or influence.
Rather than kowtowing to the usual ‘on the table’ threat from the corrupt bi-partisan Congress, the movement needs to tell them that the only thing on the table is a complete transformation from the failed global trade that rigs profits for big business at the expense of the ecology of the planet and the necessities of the people. It is time to declare the TPP, TAFTA and the Services agreements as dead, develop a new approach to trade and begin to renegotiate past trade agreements like NAFTA that aredoing ongoing damage to the economy, planet and people.
Congress be warned: The people are watching and are onto the rigged trade corruption scheme. Members of Congress will pay a political price, with the end of their careers, if they continue to force their failed trade strategy on the nation and the world.
Challenges for the TPP
For more than three years the President’s US Trade Representatives have sought Fast Track trade authority. Fast Track means that Congress would give up its constitutional responsibility “to regulate commerce between nations.” The movement for fair trade has fought back and pushed Congress to not give President Obama the authority he needs.
More than 3,150,000 have signed a petition to stop Fast Track. At the critical moment in January and February when the President and “free” traders in Congress (note: whenever you see “free trade” think “rigged trade”) were set to push Fast Track legislation, the people responded with over 40,000 phone calls and 600,000 emails to Congress. There were also protests across the continent. As a result, that Fast Track bill died.
The opposition is global. At the same time people were acting in the US,65,000 people protested the TPP in Mexico and more than 1.8 million in Australia called for the text to be made public. President Obama was greeted with TPP protests when he visited Asia as was Vice PresidentBiden when he visited Japan. We just returned from an economic conference organized by the Center for Global Justice that included people from the US, Mexico, Australia, China, Israel, Guatemala and other nations, and the top area where people agreed to work together was to stop the TPP and transform global trade.
This occurred because the TPP has been a matchstick that has united people into a ‘movement of movements’ of more than 150 organizations (including our project Popular Resistance) that worked together to Stop Fast Track\. Activists concerned about food safety, worker rights, health care, finance, the environment, Internet freedom and more have organized scores of rallies and protests throughout the nation and around the world. There have been protests at trade negotiations even when they try to hide the location. The negotiators have become so fearful of protests that for the last negotiating session they fled 2,650 miles across Canada in an attempt to avoid them. The retreat failed as protesters exposed the TPP and brought 19,000 voices to the negotiations.
In this audacious protest last September, which we helped to organize, activists climbed up on and covered the US Trade Representative national office near the White House with four large banners to expose the secrecy.
In response to mobilization against the TPP, Congress in an election year has sent a variety of letters to the president on the shortcomings of the TPP. These include: 153 members of Congress calling for stronger labor standards, a bi-partisan letter signed by 140 members of Congress opposing the agricultural provisions of the TPP, and 120 members of Congress signed a letter saying they would not support a trade agreement with weak environmental standards and 35 members of Congress writing concerning the human rights violations in Vietnam, and Brunei adopting Sharia law. While these sound good, voters should be on alert to these election year actions. Language could be added to the TPP which sounds good but changes nothing as has occurred in previous trade deals. There is no form of the TPP that can actually protect the people and planet. Corporate lawyers have been writing the TPP for four years. The only response is to defeat the TPP.
Message to US Trade Representative, Obama and free-traders in Congress: If you have to be secretive, and fear protesters because your agreement is so unpopular, you need to start over. The process should be open, transparent and participatory. Simple message: Stop the Secrecy! This is supposed to be a democracy.
Desperate Attempts to Salvage the TPP
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