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Protesters Demand Transparency for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at Office of the U.S. Trade Representative with Banners, Lockdown
WASHINGTON - September 23 - This afternoon, protesters concerned about the looming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) covered the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative with banners calling for a democratic process and a release of the treaty’s text. The group, which included members of FlushTheTPP.org, CODEPINK, Veterans for Peace and Earth First!, say that the TPP could have vast consequences for U.S. laws, workers rights, and the environment.
So far, the treaty has been drafted with an unprecedented degree of secrecy. Though more than 600 corporate advisors have access to the treaty’s text – including companies such as Halliburton, Monsanto, Walmart, and Chevron – the Obama administration has kept the TPP classified, making it the first-ever classification of a trade agreement. In addition to denying public access to its text, the president has urged Congress to use Fast Track to pass the treaty. Fast Track would limit congressional consideration of the text to 30 days and centralize signing and negotiating power within the Executive, challenging Congress’s constitutional responsibility under the Commerce Clause to set terms of trade.
With banners that read “Transparency: Release the Text” and “Democracy, not Corporatocracy,” protesters joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), and many others opposing Fast Track and calling for the text’s immediate release. Earlier this summer, Rep. Grayson stated that, “this, more than anything, shows the abuse of the classified information system,” calling the treaty an “assault on democratic government.” Sen. Warren noted in her letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, “if transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.”
While the full content of the treaty remains unknown, public opposition to what little has been leaked is growing. A new report from the Center for Economic Policy and Research finds that the TPP will produce small economic growth, while the vast majority of U.S. workers would have lower income under the agreement. Unions including the Communication Workers Association, AFL-CIO and Teamsters have raised serious concerns about its impact on working families, and doctors have also highlighted consequences for access to healthcare and life-saving medicines.
Resistance isn’t limited to the U.S. alone. Other members of the treaty, including Japan and Malaysia, have seen significant public demonstrations in opposition to the agreement, while the lead negotiator from Chile, Rodrigo Contreras, resigned earlier this year citing concerns that the treaty would restrict Chile’s ability to shape public policies, control financial institutions and address issues of health, education, and development.
One protester from FlushTheTPP.org, who locked himself to another on top of the building’s scaffolding, has firsthand experience with how transnational corporations control and design free trade agreements like these. Steven Bray decided to quit his job after his former employer, Caterpillar, sent the entire company a link to an automated message in support of the U.S.-Colombian Free Trade Agreement. “When I learned how many of my coworkers responded without actually considering the text and its potential consequences, I couldn’t stand it. This made the voice of one CEO sound like the voice of 10,000.”
Protesters promised to escalate their tactics if President Obama continues to undermine the Constitution, transparency, and democracy. On Tuesday, the protesters will crash a Fast Track train into Congress after driving it across the city from the US Chamber of Commerce at 11 AM.