Global Day of Action Targets 'Toxic' Trade Agreements

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Activists in Baltimore and more than 30 cities across the world take action to highlight the failures of so called free trade agreements. On Tuesday December 3, activists from Baltimore and more than 30 cities across the U.S. and Mexico participated in a Global Day of Action against so-called “toxic trade agreements”. Called for by civil society in Indonesia as the World Trade Organization begins meetings in Bali, the events also precede negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) set to begin in Singapore on Dec. 7th. Meanwhile, thousands of Japanese farmers protested US Vice President Joseph Biden’s Tuesday visit to Tokyo, while hundreds marched in Bali’s Renon Square.

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The protests are occurring shortly after Wikileaks released the TPP’s chapter on intellectual property, which revealed far-reaching and damaging effects on everything from civil liberties and Internet privacy, to biological patents and copyrights. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free trade agreement currently being negotiated by twelve countries, and would be the largest in the world should it pass.

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In Baltimore, activists gathered outside Penn Station with a TPP “train” illustrating the consequences of irresponsible treaties that put profits before people’s lives and the planet. Criticism around the negotiations’ unprecedented secrecy continues to grow.

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The action outside Baltimore’s Penn Station was followed by a large-scale, public light projections from the local group Luminous Intervention. Despite the lack of transparency for the public and policymakers, more than 600 corporate advisers – including Monsanto, Walmart, Chevron, and Halliburton – have access to the text.

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Participants urged passersby to contact their representatives about the many dangers of the TPP, from food safety and workers rights to the environment and access to life-saving medicines.

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Opponents in the US have highlighted President Obama’s request that Congress grant the administration Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as Fast Track. Fast Track seeks to expedite the passage of a free trade agreement by undermining constitutional checks and balances, limiting the number of days Congress is allowed to consider the text, and preventing members from making amendments.

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180 members of Congress have signed letters to President Obama against Fast Track this year, reflecting the growing bi-partisan opposition to the authority. Representatives have cited the damaging impacts of other trade agreements – such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which resulted in the loss of an estimated 600,000 U.S. jobs – as an indication of the need for sufficient congressional oversight and assurance that past mistakes will not be repeated.

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Reed College students from United Students for Fair Trade took action against the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Black Friday, urging corporations like Nike to stop supporting the TPP.

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In Washington DC, advocates delivered a petition signed by 4,000 people to the US Trade Representative, demanding that negotiator Stan McCoy stop pressuring countries to accept pharmaceutical policies that protect profits at the expense of people’s lives. They also delivered a second petition, signed by 42,000, demanding transparency by releasing the text of the agreement.

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Residents in Cheboygan, MI brave the snow to express their frustration with the dangerous free trade policies of both the past and present. From Honolulu, HI to New York, NY, participants including health practitioners, students, communication workers, and more gathered in public spaces to highlight the loss of jobs, threats to national sovereignty, and economic and health consequences likely to result from trade agreements including the TPP.

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