With members of Congress set to debate Fast Track authority this week, hundreds of environmentalists, consumer advocates, nurses, labor leaders, and elected officials stood shoulder-to-shoulder at a Washington, D.C. rally on Monday, pleading with lawmakers: 'Don't Trade Away Our Future!'
"The TPP isn't a trade deal. It is a corporate coup d'etat that is about to be rammed down the American people’s throats." —Jim HightowerKey legislators behind the push for Fast Track, or Trade Promotion Authority, agreed on compromise legislation last week and both chambers of Congress are expected to further consider—and possibly vote on—the bill this week.
But grassroots groups are vowing to hold lawmakers accountable for their votes on Fast Track, which experts agree is essentially "congressional pre-approval" for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an industry-friendly, 12-nation trade pact currently being secretly negotiated by world governments and multinational corporations.
"Working people are rising up against backroom deals that destroy our democracy and threaten our communities and the environment," said George Goehl, executive director of National People's Action, who organized Monday's action together with Campaign for America’s Future, Alliance for a Just Society, and USAction. "We won’t stand idly by while our government trades worker protections for corporate profits and democracy for secret agreements. We've seen this movie before and we know it does not end well."
"We won’t stand idly by while our government trades worker protections for corporate profits and democracy for secret agreements." —George Goehl, NPAFollowing a brief occupation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobby, protesters marched past the U.S. Trade Representative's office, holding signs and banners declaring their opposition to Fast Track and the TPP. In addition, they tugged a 'Trojan Horse' symbolizing the hidden impacts of the mammoth trade deal.
"The TPP isn't a trade deal," columnist and political commentator Jim Hightower told the crowd. "It is a corporate coup d'etat that is about to be rammed down the American people’s throats. It would make us poorer and less free and we the people aren’t going to stand by and let it happen."
— Bree Carlson (@NPASRP) April 20, 2015
— IAM District 751 (@IAM751) April 20, 2015
"One of the key reasons why the middle class in America continues to decline and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider is because of disastrous trade agreements which have sent millions of decent-paying jobs to China and other low-wage countries," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement leading up to the rally, in which he participated.
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Regarding the clandestine nature of the negotiations thus far, Sanders added: "It is absurd that a trade agreement of such enormous consequence has had so little transparency."
Larry Cohen, president of Communications Workers of America, echoed Sanders' indictment.
"Fast Track is not what Democracy looks like," Cohen said. "We are shut out of the debate and the consequences are horrible for the environment, workers here and abroad, for our cities devastated by abandoned factories, and for public services underfunded with trade deficits leading to greater public deficits."
Meanwhile, U.S. and Japanese trade officials met Monday in Tokyo in an effort to further pave the way for the proposed TPP. As The Hill reports, "[a] U.S.-Japan bilateral agreement is a major step toward completing" the TPP, which will be at the top of the agenda when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama meet in Washington, D.C. on April 28.
According to the Japan Times:
The second day of negotiations will be "the most crucial stage" of the prolonged bilateral talks on a broader Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, economic and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari told reporters before meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.
...During the two-day meeting, the trade chiefs are seeking to find common ground over how big an increase Japan should allow in imports of rice — one of its key agricultural products and its staple food — as well as abolition of trade barriers in the U.S. auto sector.
Monday's march and rally in Washington, D.C. came on the heels of a nationwide Stop Fast Track day of action on Saturday, April 18.
Follow the #StopFastTrack movement on Twitter: