Trade for the Benefit of People

In June, despite fierce opposition, and after a roller coaster of debate and voting tricks, Congress granted the President Fast Track authority for trade deals. (Our June newsletter covered some of the reaction to the news.)  This means that the President and the US Trade Representative have broad freedom to continue the largely secret negotiations of trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Both agreements are expected to make international trade easier for large multi-national corporations at the expense of farmers, working families, public health, and the environment.

So what happens now? Now it is time to step up opposition to the agreements themselves.

To be clear, we do need international trade, and we do need agreements on how it should work. But we need the process of creating these agreements to be fair and transparent and when the process is flawed, the agreements are flawed. Allowing 600 corporate lobbyists to advise on the TPP while keeping the public in the dark will not result in a fair trade policy.

Some specific concerns about the TPP are that it would:

  • Undermine local communities’ ability to initiate programs in their own best interest because investor-state dispute settlement (ISID) rules means corporations who lose profits due to local or national policies can sue and are often successful. This could undermine, for example, a school system’s purchasing policy that gives preference to local farmers providing fresh food.
  • Concentrate jobs in low-wage countries. This is bad news for workers in all countries as US workers will see jobs disappear while in low-wage countries the pressure to keep wages low leads to poverty wages and human rights abuses.  Working families everywhere suffer.
  • Force small-scale farmers off their land. After the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, two million Mexican farmers and agricultural workers were forced off the land. TPP is expected to have a similar effect on a larger scale.

Opposition to TPP comes from many corners including, among others, Vermont Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, farmers in Japan, and Doctors Without Borders.

In fact, there is so much opposition and disagreement internally to some of the deal’s provisions that talks earlier this summer ended without reaching an expected agreement.

Now is the time to be loud and clear that we want fair trade not “free trade.”

An opportunity is coming to do just that. October 10-17, 2015 has been designated as the International Days of Action for democracy, social justice, and public services. This is a global movement and an exciting time to be visible in our demands for trade policies that benefit people not corporations. Find an event, plan an event, or organize a visit to your Senator or Representative.

This also coincides with a Climate Day of Action planned for October 14th and World Food Day October 16th.

These issues are all intimately connected. Not only can trade policy be used to directly re-enforce or undermine climate policy, trade policy can also be used to support a food and agriculture system that pollutes and contributes to climate change and forces small-scale farmers off their land, or it can be used to position small-scale farmers to feed the world and mitigate climate change. Our own Campaign for Climate, Food, and Farm Justice highlights the need to put agroecology at the forefront of the climate agenda.

A week focused on trade for the people with days focused on movement climate and food means a real opportunity to make the just economy agenda visible!


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