For Immediate Release
December 5, 2009
BUSINESS, LABOR, ENVIRONMENT:
Oregonians Demonstrate Against the WTO Again, 10 Years After the Historic “Battle in Seattle”
March and Rally in Portland Voice Opposition to Proposed WTO Expansion; One of Many Demonstrations around the Globe
PORTLAND, OR — A coalition of more than 75 labor, environmental, human rights and social justice organizations across Oregon held a large march and rally in downtown Portland today, with thousands voicing opposition to new attempts to expand the World Trade Organization (WTO), an international body that negotiates and enforces global economic agreements. The demonstration was one of hundreds around the globe, and comes on the 10-year anniversary of the historic “Battle in Seattle” WTO protests.
“What’s needed in response to the economic crisis are good-paying jobs, comprehensive banking regulations and a social safety net that Americans can count on when times get hard. WTO policies continue to pose a serious threat to all those things,” said Tom Chamberlain, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO. “We said it ten years ago, and we’ll keep on saying it until the message is heard: we need to end the WTO’s failed policies. Business-as-usual trade agreements are no longer acceptable.”
On November 30, 1999, tens of thousands of people from throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond converged in Seattle to demonstrate against a meeting of the WTO. The massive protests made headlines around the world for shutting down the opening of the WTO’s conference and helping to derail its internal negotiations. Last year, the protests were even made the subject of a Hollywood movie.
Ten years later, the WTO is trying to jumpstart its stalled expansion plans once again. Earlier this week in Geneva, Switzerland, the WTO held its biggest meeting in many years. In response, global justice activists held large demonstrations in multiple cities and towns throughout the world. The Portland march was the largest such demonstration in the United States, and attracted demonstrators from throughout the region.
“The Seattle protests represented a ‘movement of movements,’ with environmentalists, trade unionists, family farmers and others demanding that decisions that affect the economic and ecological well-being of our communities be made in the interests of people over profits,” said Wes Kempfer, interim Trade Justice Coordinator for the Oregon Sierra Club. “The notion that ‘increased trade volumes trump everything else’ is perverse, and should be eliminated for a wide range of reasons.”
Event organizers say that the WTO’s proposed “Doha Round” expansion would:
- Cause further offshoring of Oregon jobs;
- Prohibit new banking regulations designed to prevent the next financial crisis;
- Force future climate change policies to conform with restrictive commercial agreements;
- Expand agricultural practices that push small farmers off their land and force migration; and
- Require countries to accept imported foods and consumer items that fail to meet local safety standards.
“With Oregon Senator Ron Wyden now chair of the Subcommittee on International Trade, it’s especially important that Oregonians make their voices heard. The Senator is uniquely positioned to change the course of future trade policies,” said Andrea Townsend, organizer with the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. “We want Senator Wyden to oppose expansion of the World Trade Organization and support comprehensive trade reform legislation like the TRADE Act.”
The TRADE Act, a bill currently supported by nearly half of the Democratic Caucus in the House and additional members in the Senate, would require review and renegotiation of the WTO and a range of other free trade agreements. The legislation’s cosponsors include Senator Jeff Merkley, Congressman David Wu and Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon.
Participants in the anti-WTO demonstration began gathering at noon along the waterfront in downtown Portland under the Hawthorne Bridge, then marched with colorful banners and large puppets through downtown. They were led by a contingent of “Teamsters and Turtles,” and passed street theater performed at the World Trade Center, Federal Building and Wells Fargo Center. The march was followed by an indoor rally and concert at Portland State University.
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