Hundreds of international trade ministers and corporate lobbyists continue to meet to hammer out an international trade pact that could restrict Internet freedom, encourage U.S. companies to ship even more jobs overseas, reduce access to life-saving medicines, weaken environmental law and kill “Buy American” policies.
Most had hoped that the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, sometimes called “NAFTA on steroids,” could be finished in secret. But they weren’t counting on CWA activists and coalition partners including Sierra Club and the Citizens Trade Campaign who are shining a light on just what this trade deal would mean for ordinary Americans.
In Addison, Texas, nearly 400 protesters marched to the doorstep of negotiators, demanding transparency and accountability. Rallying outside the Intercontinental Hotel, demonstrators raised awareness about what stands to be the largest free trade agreement in the history of the United States. The deal now includes Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Singapore, but Canada, Mexico and Japan also want to join.
In a speech to the crowd, CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings lashed out at the exclusion of key stakeholders in the talks.
“It is unacceptable that an agreement with such far reaching implications is being negotiated behind closed doors and in complete secrecy,” said Cummings. “The only people with access to texts, in additions to governments involved, are the nearly 600 corporate trade advisers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce can see the texts, but because none of the texts has been released to the public, workers who face the loss of their livelihoods and communities that face economic downturn are denied any input.”
He added, “Every trade deal has resulted in a loss of jobs for U.S. workers. It’s no surprise that a recent Wall Street Journal poll found 69 percent of Americans believe that free trade cost jobs. They’re right.”
“Where is labor?” said CWA Local 6215 Executive Vice President Nancy Hall. “We always build the table. We make the chairs. But we’re not allowed to sit there and partake in the discussions. No one there was speaking on our behalf.”
CWAers and allies are gearing up for the next round of talks, scheduled for San Diego in July.
Negotiators “have kept it so under wraps that no one knows about TPP,” said Herb Keener of CWA Local 6215. “We need to start hammering it home and let people know there's another negotiation. We have three months to be on our toes. Let’s educate them. That’s our job. We have to get it out when no one else will.”