Protesters Decry Race-to-the-Bottom Trade Proposal Outside President Obama’s US-ASEAN Economic Summit
Saying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would lead to a global race-to-the-bottom in wages, working conditions and environmental standards if ever enacted, Californians protested the proposed trade agreement outside an international economic summit with southeast Asian nations’ leaders hosted by President Obama at the Sunnylands Estate in Rancho Mirage, California on February 15, 2016.
“While out-of-touch politicians discuss plans to ratify and even expand the TPP, working people in California and around the globe are uniting to defeat trade deals that offshore jobs, drive down wages and hurt the environment,” said Lua Masumi, California Director for Citizens Trade Campaign. “As a result of public anger, the TPP is already dead-on-arrival in Congress this year and the leading presidential candidates from both parties are also speaking out against it.”
“Governments should be seeking out ways to lift working standards and protect the environment, not how to pit working people against one another,” said T. Santora, Communications Workers of America Local 9003, Legislative and Political Chair of the Southern California Council. “The TPP would force American employers into greater competition with companies exploiting workers paid less than 65 cents an hour in countries like Vietnam. A country could literally set its minimum wage at a dollar a day and still be in compliance with the TPP’s abysmally-weak labor standards. It’s no wonder the TPP’s opposition is so strong.”
The proposed TPP seeks to set rules governing approximately 40% of the global economy, not only on traditional trade matters such as tariffs and quotas, but also financial regulations, medicine patents, energy policy, food safety standards, government procurement preferences and more.
The TPP was signed by the United States and eleven other countries earlier in February 2016, but its ratification faces an uphill battle in Congress. In addition to the United States, other TPP signers participating in the US-ASEAN summit are Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Prospective TPP members Thailand, Indonesia and The Philippines are also at the summit.
Banging drums, chanting and carrying a giant six-foot globe reading “United Against the TPP,” protesters outside the Sunnyland Estate represented a range of constituencies, from the labor, environmental, consumer, immigrant rights and human rights movements.
“The world cannot afford the TPP,” said Jacob Zehnder, Sierra Club of San Diego Representative. “Beyond just failing to mention the term ‘climate change’ in its thousands of pages, the TPP would provide corporations with new tools for attacking environmental and consumer protections at home and abroad, while simultaneously increasing the export of fracked gas and other climate-disrupting fossil fuels.”
“As you’d expect from a trade deal negotiated behind-closed doors with the aid of hundreds of corporate advisors, while the public and press were shut out, the TPP would put corporate profits ahead of human rights,” said Charlie Carnow, Research Analyst for UNITE HERE Local 11. “The TPP includes several notorious human rights violators, including Brunei, where LGBT individuals and single mothers can be stoned to death under extreme Sharia law, and Malaysia, where huge numbers of ethic minorities are trafficked through the jungle in modern slavery.”
Ignoring the economic, environmental and human rights implications of the proposed agreement, the Obama administration’s latest argument for the TPP is that the pact would help contain Chinese expansion in the Pacific Rim.
“To suggest that the TPP is somehow a bulwark against Chinese expansion in the region is ridiculous,” said Masumi. “TPP countries — including the United States — are going to continue trading with China like gangbusters with or without this agreement. What the TPP is really about is enriching a relative handful of well-connected corporate elites at the expense of nearly everyone else.”