As trade negotiators and corporate lobbyists met at a swank San Diego hotel this July in an attempt to push the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) toward conclusion, labor, environmental and community organizations from southern California and throughout the country pulled together to drag the TPP out of the shadows and prevent a new “NAFTA on Steroids.”
Approximately 3.5 million American jobs have been shipped abroad under past NAFTA-style trade pacts, including more than half-a-million in California. While hosting a Kick-Off Rally on the opening day of the negotiations, San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Lorena Gonzalez noted how all workers are affected by offshoring, saying, “This not only contributes to the nation’s severe unemployment problems, but it pushes down wages and benefits for the jobs we have left. It also means a smaller tax base to support our schools, our infrastructure, and other critical services.”
Gonzalez introduced Congressman Bob Filner — who has been a long-time opponent of job-killing trade agreements — as well as speakers from the Machinists, Friends of the Earth, Citizens Trade Campaign and more than half-a-dozen other organizations to a noontime crowd of almost 200.
One consistent theme throughout the rally was the lack of transparency in the TPP negotiations. U.S. trade negotiators have flat-out refused to tell the American public what they are negotiating in our names, while granting approximately 600 corporate lobbyists special “cleared advisor” status that allows them to review and propose changes to the TPP negotiating texts.
Corporations with this access include Wal-Mart, Chevron, Verizon, Halliburton, FedEx and many others — prompting solidarity actions about the TPP outside of corporate offices throughout the country from as far away from San Diego as Seattle and New York City.
While advocates do not know all that U.S. negotiators have been proposing, a handful of leaked TPP chapters first published by Citizens Trade Campaign show the Office of the U.S. Trade Representatives has been pushing for provisions that would create new incentives for corporations to move jobs overseas, delay access to affordable generic medications and provide transnational corporations new powers to attack environmental and consumer safety rules.
In addition to protesting on the opening day, San Diego activists also wore t-shirts reading “No Back Room for the 1%” inside official stakeholder events and grilled the lead U.S. negotiator about the lack of transparency and the potential impact of the TPP on jobs, public health and the environment. Hundreds have also been participating in a week-long series of educational events, including one focused on “Worker Rights, Outsourcing and Wal-Mart” that featured a presentation by national AFL-CIO trade specialist Celeste Drake and another on “Food Freedom” featuring National Family Farm Coalition president Ben Burkett.
On Saturday, July 7, a coalition of organizations including Occupy San Diego, the Machinists and others held a “Pots and Pans” march that started at the San Diego Civic Center and wove its way downtown to the site of the negotiations.