Four Arrested So Far as Atlantans Protest Trans-Pacific Partnership Meeting
(APN) ATLANTA — Protests against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continue in Atlanta, as negotiators from twelve countries work to finalize this latest, controversial proposal for an international free trade agreement.
Advocates from civil society organizations concerned with labor, the environment, health care, food, and other issues are worried about a new, free trade agreement that would further entrench corporate interests.
As of Friday evening, October 02, 2015, four activists have been arrested for civil disobedience.
On Wednesday, September 30, Zahara Heckscher, a breast cancer patient, was arrested for confronting TPP negotiators, while hooked up to an IV.
On Thursday, October 01, Daniel Hanley went down to the floor where negotiations were taking place and handcuffed himself to a railing. Pictures that have surfaced of his arrest appear particularly brutal. One of the officers was aggressive and hurt Hanley’s wrist while trying to remove the handcuffs, Hanley said.
Today, Friday, October 02, Nina Roark and an activist who goes by the name, “Scout,” were arrested for putting their bodies in the doorway of the meeting and refusing to leave.
The contents of the TPP are not being made public; however, an earlier version was leaked on WikiLeaks.
“Based on what we know about the TPP, this massive free trade agreement would let corporations unravel hard-won protections for health, working conditions, and the environment,” Nina Dutton, lead TPP organizer with the Sierra Club, said.
The TPP is being negotiated between the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, representing nearly forty percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“We feel that the TPP will destroy fundamental parts of life, including agriculture, and not only agriculture but medicine… that is the reason we are opposing the TPP negotiations,” Yamada Masahiko, a former Minister of Agriculture in Japan, said in an interview through an interpreter, with Atlanta Progressive News.
“We raised litigation against the Japanese government, on the basis that the TPP negotiation is unconstitutional,” Yamada said. The litigation is ongoing, but has the support of more than 150 lawyers.
“We know from our sources on the inside that the U.S. is pushing for eight or even twelve year monopolies on the brand name biological medicines. Monopolies of eight or twelve years means there can be no generics and no biosimilars, which are like generics, of these drugs in the countries that sign the agreement,” Heckscher said.
“The U.S. should stop pushing it, other countries should stay strong against it,” Heckscher said.
For countries that have public healthcare, like Australia and New Zealand, this means a bigger expense to treat everything from cancer to rheumatoid arthritis.
One of the most frequently articulated concerns from TPP opponents centers on the lack of transparency about the contents of the agreement, as well as a larger lack of accountability to the public.
While pharmaceutical companies have been able to lobby to get language included beneficial to their bottom line, consumer protection and other civil groups have had no access to the negotiations.
“So this is a negotiation that has been done in secret, it’s never been disclosed to the public what’s in it. When they pass it, they still will not release the text; it’s held secret for several years,” Martin O’Hanlon, President of Communication Workers of America – Canada, told APN.
U.S. Congress granted President Barack Obama fast-track authority over the summer of 2015, intended to ensure that Congress cannot finagle with the agreement after the U.S. trade representative has finalized the deal.
However, this also means Congress will only be able to give the agreement an up or down vote, without being able to review its contents.
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under the Clinton administration, has publicly come out against the TPP, although he supported North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) during his time as Secretary.
“I used to believe in ‘free trade’ agreements, until I took a hard look at the numbers. NAFTA cost U.S. workers almost 700,000 jobs. Since the Korea–U.S. Free Trade Agreement, America’s trade deficit with Korea has grown more than 80 percent,” Reich stated in a Facebook post.
“Trade deals the fail to address currency manipulation or to effectively address labor standards — while protecting the intellectual property of global corporate investors and the financial asset of Wall Street — aren’t even about trade, since tariffs are already very low. They’re really about enhancing corporate and financial profits at the expense of American workers,” Reich stated.
Opponents also expressed concern about the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) aspect of the TPP, as it allows corporations to sue governments for lost profits in a tribunal outside the jurisdiction of the countries involved.
“Corporations from the U.S. and eleven other countries would be able to sue those governments over laws and regulations that would allegedly cut into their potential profits… Exxon Mobil and Dow Chemical have already used similar rules… under other trade agreements to bring these kinds of cases against governments, but the TPP would open the door to more major corporations from more countries to attack pro-health and pro-environment laws,” Dutton said.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed joined with other members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors to continue to state their support for the TPP, and to encourage the negotiators to complete the deal while they are here in Atlanta.
“The Metropolitan Atlanta area is already the thirteenth largest exporter in the United States, but our region has a tremendous opportunity to further grow exports, grow the economy, and create jobs with the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Mayor Kasim Reed in a press release.
Hanley spoke with APN about the concerns he had that motivated him to participate in civil disobedience.
“It’s very frustrating because, for one thing, the talks are so secretive. The location was announced at the last possible minute,” Hanley, an activist affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America, said.
“From what we know about the deals, they are expected to be extremely devastating to workers’ rights, working conditions, U.S. jobs, just like NAFTA was,” Hanley said.
Over 150 people attended rallies during the week, organized by Jobs with Justice. As long as the negotiators are in Atlanta, opponents plan to keep up the pressure.
“I may be in the photographs, but there are tens of thousands of people behind me, and there are millions of people who will be affected negatively if this passes,” Heckscher said.