Photo caption: Bob Ryan of the United Steelworkers speaks in front of Cargill headquarters.
On July 9, Minnesotans rallied outside Cargill headquarters to speak up against corporate control of international trade negotiations, and demand that the texts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement be made 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, Director of the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership 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 from July 2nd to 10th. Thus far, only those with “cleared advisor” status have been able to see the negotiating texts – and nearly all of the 600 advisors represent corporations and industry groups. The media, the public and even elected officials in Congress have been kept in the dark.
At the rally, speakers highlighted the impact of past agreements on jobs, environment and human rights. “Trade deals like NAFTA have been nothing more than corporate giveaways and have led to job loss, environmental destruction, and unsafe consumer products,” said Wise.
The Pacific Rim is an area of great environmental significance, including the world’s largest coral reef system in Australia and critically endangered species in or around each of the TPP countries. Unfortunately, past agreements have allowed foreign corporations to sue governments directly for unlimited cash compensation over almost any domestic environmental or other law that the corporation believes is hurting its ability to profit.
It is essential that the TPP incorporate environmental provisions to protect these resources, rather than trading away our environment and workers’ rights for corporate profits.
Speakers at the rally include Bob Ryan of the United Steelworkers, who talked about the job losses resulting from free trade agreements; Gerardo Cajamarca, who was granted political asylum from Colombia, who spoke about free trade’s effect on human rights and corporate globalization; and Dwight Ault, a farmer from Southern Minnesota, who discussed the impacts on local agriculture. “The life of the Midwest was built on small farmers, not mega-farmers,” said Ault. The Trans-Pacific Partnership “will exploit the poor and enlarge the billfolds of the wealthy,” he said.
More than 130 members of Congress, including Minnesota Representatives Walz, McCollum, Ellison, and Peterson, recently wrote the United States Trade Representative, asking for negotiating texts to be made available.
The rally was organized by the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition, a partnership of over 40 labor, family farm, environmental, faith and social justice organizations across the state, including the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. The coalition works to create, promote and support fair trade policies and global justice for our communities, family farms, working people, and the environment in Minnesota and around the globe.