Undeterred by a June shower, labor activists from across the country on Tuesday gathered at the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C. before marching to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), demanding to see the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a secret trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other countries.
“President Obama said to his critics that if they wanted to see the text of the TPP, they could come see it any time. We’re going to test that theory today,” said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre to the crowd chanting “Show us the text! Show us the jobs.”
But they soon found out after marching to USTR and knocking on doors that, obviously, you can’t see it any time, as USTR refused to even open the doors.
“They didn’t show us the text. What are they hiding? They’re lying!” yelled Aarion Brown with the American Postal Workers Union.
“Even though this trade deal will affect 40 percent of the world’s GDP, and even though no prior trade deal USTR has negotiated has ever lived up to its promises, and even though the administration has promised that this would be the most progressive, transparent trade deal in history, we still can’t see the text.” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler.
The Senate has recently voted to give President Obama fast-track negotiating authority to negotiate TPP and other trade deals that cannot be changed by Congress. The measure has been sent to the House of Representatives, which could vote on the measure any day now.
A major problem with TPP is that the administration, international corporations, and the governments of the 11 countries have been negotiating this trade deal behind closed doors. The text of the TPP is not available for the public or even U.S. lawmakers.
“The Senate did what it did blindfolded,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut told the protesters. “It’s all about not wanting the American people to see what’s in this agreement because if they saw it they would reject it.”
“If this agreement is so great for American workers, you’d think the first people you would ask would be American workers,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas who has been asking to the see the text for months. “The Vietnam politburo knows more about TPP than the U.S. Congress does.”
According to leaked documents, TPP would be much worse than NAFTA, which has killed more than 1 million American jobs on the heels of its 20th anniversary and has immensely widened the income gap between the rich and everyone else.
“We are not against trade deals,” Gebre said. “We are for trade deals that uplift everybody. We are against trade deals that bring us down.”
One particular provision would allow corporations to sue governments for taxpayers-funded compensation for “expected future profits.” There are about 9,000 foreign-owned companies in the U.S. and they will be empowered to sue governments here.
“This continues the great American tradition of corporations writing trade agreements, sharing them with almost nobody, so often at the expense of consumers, public health and workers,” Sen. Sherrod Brown has said.
One hair raising clause would push for greater privatization of public functions. Others would allow foreign food companies to import food to the U.S. without following the U.S. food and safety standards and would create new patent extensions for drug companies that would raise medicine prices for us all.
Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen asked lawmakers who have not decided on how they should vote to choose.
“Are you on the side of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or are you on the side of the American worker?” Cohen said.