Texas AFL-CIO Opposes Secrecy in TPP Trade Talks
Participants in news conference on TPP secrecy hold more than 24,000 protest petition signatures. Photo by Herb Keener.
Organized labor has maintained a long-running suspicion of so-called “free trade” treaties, believing they cost Americans jobs, spur a “race to the bottom” on labor standards around the world, and undermine American laws aimed at promoting decent workplaces and U.S. products.
But until the latest talks, at least labor knew what it was opposing.
With the Trans-Pacific Partnership proposal, the latest in a long-running alphabet soup of “free trade” deals that include NAFTA, CAFTA and the WTO, secrecy on the text of the proposal has been so great that it is raising suspicions to new levels. Worse yet, some 600 corporate lobbyists have been given special access to the drafts of the proposal.
That’s why the Texas AFL-CIO joined the Texas Fair Trade Coalition and allied groups in protesting ongoing secrecy when TPP negotiators resumed their talks in Texas. U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor, hosted the ongoing “Trans-Pacific” talks, which actually involve nations from four continents, in an Addison hotel.
At a kickoff news conference opposing the secrecy of the proceedings, which was to be followed by a major rally, Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller said the curtain around TPP suggests the treaty may include items that would never see the light of day if they had to be negotiated in public.
“You don’t have to be a critic of “free trade” to know that the level of secrecy in these negotiations is dangerous,” Moeller said, “dangerous to workers and dangerous to our sovereignty as a nation.”
“To say that the TPP at this moment is a pig in a poke is to do dishonor to the poke industry,” Moeller said.
Moeller noted the theory by Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch that TPP may be a “delivery vehicle” for policies that have been rejected by Congress, including the Stop Online Privacy Act, patent proposals that could raise prescription drug prices and attacks on procurement policies that promote “Buy America.”
Nancy Hall of CWA said at the news conference that TPP could, like other trade treaties, allow multi-national corporations to undermine U.S. laws by attacking them in international trade tribunals. A recent example: the World Trade Organization’s recent ruling that the U.S. could not ban clove cigarettes, which are popular with young people.
“This kind of secrecy makes me wonder whether it’s even possible any more for American voters to demand decent labor provisions as elite negotiators and privileged lobbyists discuss the future of the world behind our backs,” Hall said.
“So far, we’ve sacrificed jobs and a piece of our sovereignty. But the secrecy of these negotiations suggests to me that we may also be about to sacrifice a piece of our democracy as well.”
Also raising serious issues about TPP secrecy at the news conference were Bob Cash of the Texas Fair Trade Coalition and Hal Suter of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Cash said secrecy has not been the norm in past trade talks. In fact, draft texts of the WTO are routinely published for public review, he said.
Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller moderated the news conference. Photo by Herb Keener.
The secrecy opponents later delivered more than 24,000 petition signatures to a representative of Kirk. A rally and march entitled “TPP: Out of the Shadows!” was set to occur as talks continued in Addison.
© AFL-CIO. All rights reserved.
Photographs and illustrations, as well as text, cannot be used without permission from the AFL-CIO.