Environmental, labor, and community groups are organizing rallies, public forums, and creative direct actions this week urging their congressional representatives to say "no" to a renewed bid to rush through the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership "trade" deal by passing "fast track" legislation.
"Senate Finance Committe Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is saying he wants to reintroduce Fast Track legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) this month — right after Members of Congress return from the Presidents Day recess," explains Citizens Trade Campaign, referring to legislation that would allow the Obama administration to avoid transparency and full congressional review of the deal. "Now’s the time to tell Congress: no Fast Track for the TPP!"
"Fast track legislation could be introduced as early as next week," Arthur Stamoulis, executive direct of Citizens Trade Campaign, told Common Dreams. "Fast track would allow harmful trade deals like the TPP be rushed through Congress. We need everyone to be telling their Congress members to put the breaks on."
From California to Illinois to Connecticut, over 22 events are slated for the President's Day recess (February 14 to 23), during which lawmakers are at home, in their districts. Organizers hail from labor, workers' rights, environmental, and community organizations, and actions span from an overpass light brigade in San Diego to a public forum in New York.
While some events have already taken place, additional actions are scheduled for the coming days. Updates and commentary are being posted to Twitter.
Critics are blasting the highly-secretive Pacific "trade" deal under negotiation, which has been called "NAFTA on steroids," as a tool for advancing U.S. and corporate power at the expense of environmental and public health.
In fact, many argue that it's inaccurate to refer to the TPP as a "trade" deal at all, since the real prerogative is to protect corporate profits and protections.
The TPP negotiations between the U.S. and 11 other nations (Canada, Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, Chile, Peru, Brunei, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia) are so secretive that even many members of Congress have not seen the text. This is despite the fact that the pact, if passed, would impact 40 percent of the world's economy.
The information that is available to the public was leaked. Documents show that negotiators are pushing for inclusion of NAFTA's infamous corporate tribunals, in which corporations "settle disputes" with governments in secrecy and trample domestic protections including public health and environmental regulations, completely circumventing their own national legal systems.
Furthermore, leaks show that the U.S. is pushing to expand the power of pharmaceutical companies to establish monopolies on life-saving drugs, and even laws regulating tobacco companies could be slashed.
The TPP would affect wages, climate protections, internet freedom, access to medicine, indigenous rights, food safety, financial regulations, and a whole lot more," said Stamoulis. "It's really a corporate power grab with the status of a trade agreement."
This story was originally published on Common Dreams.