On Monday morning, Minnesotans rallied outside Cargill offices to protest corporate control of international trade negotiations and demand that negotiating texts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement be made available to lawmakers, the media, and the public.
“Right now, hundreds of corporate lobbyists from companies like Cargill are in San Diego, writing rules that will override existing federal state and local protections for the environment, consumer safety. And they’re doing it in total secrecy,” said Josh Wise of the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition. “Trade deals like NAFTA have been nothing more than corporate giveaways and have led to job loss, environmental destruction, and unsafe consumer products.”
Speakers at the rally included Bob Ryan; of the United Steelworkers, who talked about the impact of free trade on jobs; Dwight Ault, a farmer from Southern Minnesota, will talk about the effects of free trade on local agriculture; and Gerardo Cajamarca (right), who was granted political asylum from Colombia, gave an impassioned speech about the horrible human rights abuses Cargill has perpetrated thanks to trade deals which allow them to force people off their land and live in fear for trying to work in decent conditions for non-slave wages. Ralliers also participated in a mic check where they demanded that the negotiating texts of the TPP be made public, and that USTR stop the charade of claiming to be accessible while operating in an unprecedented level of secrecy.
The TPP is a trade pact between 11 countries on the Pacific Rim: The USA, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. The 13th round of negotiations are taking place in San Diego, from July 2 – 10th. Thus far, only those with “cleared advisor” status have been able to see the negotiating texts. There are nearly 600 cleared advisors in the talks, and nearly all from corporations and industry groups. The media, the public and even elected officials in Congress have been kept in the dark.
“Minnesota lost 13,700 manufacturing jobs to Mexico under NAFTA, and more than 70,000 total jobs to Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China,” Wise added. “It’s no wonder they don’t want us to see what they’re proposing in the TPP.”
Last month, more than 130 members of Congress, including Minnesota Reps. Walz, McCollum, Ellison, and Peterson recently wrote the United States Trade Representative, asking for negotiating texts to be made available.
There is precedent for releasing such negotiating texts. The World Trade Organization posts texts online, and texts from the Free Trade Area of the Americas and Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement were released to the public.