FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Protesters Expose Secret Negotiations

by KEVIN ZEESE

This afternoon, September 23rd, 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, Backbone Campaign, Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK, and Earth First!, say that the TPP will have vast consequences for U.S. laws, workers rights, the environment and many other aspects of life.

We decided to expose these secret negotiations by going right to their national office and plastering the Office of the US Trade Representative with messages that let them and the public know what they are doing. We took over their office building today, and plan to continue to escalate tactics in Congress and wherever we see opportunities to expose the TPP, stop the undermining of democracy through Fast Track and have a real debate over whether the US wants rigged trade for big transnational corporations or fair trade that puts people and the planet before profits.

So far, the TPP has been drafted with an unprecedented degree of secrecy. While information has been kept from the public more than 600 corporate advisers 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 a quick up or down vote and give President Obama the power to sign and negotiate the treaty. This turns the Constitution on its head as the Commerce Clause authorizes Congress to “regulate commerce among nations” not the president.”

Seven advocates dressed as workers attached four massive banners to the front and side of the US Trade Representative’s office. Banners read “Transparency: Release the Text,” “Democracy, not Corporatocracy,” “Corporate Coup against the People and Planet” and “Flush The TPP.org.”  Other activists at the front of the building held a large 15 foot tall sign that said: “Trading Away People’s Lives and the Planet’s Future.”  They were able to cover the building in banners and hold this un-permitted protest and negotiate doing so without anyone getting arrested, in fact one activist who had been held in handcuffs was even released.

Margaret Flowers, MD, who dressed as a workman to attach a sign to the front of the US Trade Representative said that “the TPP will undermine health care systems, make pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices more expensive and therefore increase pain and suffering and even cost people their lives.” Flowers an advocate for a national health care plan that treats health care as a human right rather than a commodity warned that “The TPP will undermine the excellent single payer health care systems in Japan, Australia and New Zealand and make it more difficult for the United States to put in place a single payer system — which is what most Americans and doctors want to see.”

The protesters join Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), and many others who are 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.”   Groups of Republicans and Democrats are beginning to speak out against Fast Track, the lack of transparency and the TPP.  Just as the war against Syria was stopped by a cross-partisan coalition, such a coalition can stop the TPP. Indeed 14 trade agreements have not become law in the last ten years because of citizen opposition preventing countries from reaching agreement.

An agreement that will empower corporations to dominate every aspect of our lives — food, water, health care, wages, jobs, Internet and more — should be debated openly and transparently.  The United States is supposed to be a democracy; acting in secret to create the largest trade agreement in history makes a mockery of democracy.  Minimizing the checks and balances between the Congress and president undermines the Constitution.  And, giving away U.S. sovereignty to transnational corporations is the opposite of a country of, by and for the people.

While the full content of the treaty remains unknown, public opposition to what little has been leaked is growing. We are confident the TPP can be stopped, if people know what is in  the agreement. They are keeping this agreement secret because they know its contents are so unpopular. People remember the negative impact of NAFTA, the TPP is NAFTA on steroids and will do great damage to working people all over the world as well as to the environment.

A new report from the Center for Economic Policy and Researchfinds that the TPP will produce small economic growth of only 1/10th of 1 percent per year, but it will hurt working Americans as 90 percent of workers will see their income reduced as a result of the TPP. Unions including the Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO and Teamsters have raised serious concerns about the TPP’s impact on working families, and doctors have also highlighted consequences for access to healthcare and life-saving medicines.

Resistance is not 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 fromFlushTheTPP.org, who locked himself to Margaret Flowers 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.” The Colombia trade agreement has had a serious negative effect on farmers and workers in Colombia and has resulted in massive nationwide protests.

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.

Two photo galleries can be viewed here.

Kevin Zeese serves as Attorney General in the Green Shadow Cabinet, and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network and an organizer of Popular Resistance.

Kevin Zeese is an organizer at Popular Resistance.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump. It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Douglas Valentine
Who Killed MLK Jr?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
Vijay Prashad
After Aleppo: the State of Syria
John Wight
Russia Must be Destroyed: John McCain and the Case of the Dodgy Dossier
Rob Urie
Meet the Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
The Russian Dossier Reminds Me of the Row Over Saddam’s WMDs
Eric Sommer
U.S.-China War: a Danger Hidden from the American People
Andrew Levine
Are Democrats Still the Lesser Evil?
Linda Pentz Gunter
What’s Really Behind the Indian Point Nuclear Deal?
Robert Fantina
Trucks, ‘Terror’ and Israel
Richard Moser
Universal Values are Revolutionary Values
Russell Mokhiber
Build the Bagdikian Wall: “Sponsored News” at the Washington Post
Yoav Litvin
Establishment Narcissism – The Democrats’ Game of Thrones
David Rosen
Return of the Repressed: Trump & the Revival of the Culture Wars
Robert Koehler
War Consciousness and the F-35
Rev. William Alberts
The New Smell of McCarthyism Demands Faith Leaders Speak Truth to Power
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail