- The Trans-Pacific Partnership
- Impact of Free Trade Policy in Washington State
- Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (AKA TPP)
- SweatFree Washington
- Trade Stories Project
- Support the TRADE ACT
- Activist Links
Last week, Washington Governor Jay Inslee sent a letter to US trade negotiators expressing concerns about a controversial provision in three major pending trade agreements—Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).
Opposition is mounting in the US and abroad to Investor-State Dispute Settlement, a legal provision that has been quietly included in countless trade agreements over the last few decades. ISDS significantly expands the rights of foreign investors in three ways. It allows foreign corporations to sue governments when regulations reduce future profits. It creates shadowy, corporate-friendly tribunals to hear these claims, separate from national courts. Finally, it sets standards that put investor rights above public interest, contrary to the legal traditions in America and other developed countries.
These provisions put taxpayers at risk for long legal battles and costly damage awards. They also have a chilling effect on state and national policy-makers, making them think twice before passing public health and environmental regulations.
In his letter, Governor Inslee emphasizes these risks,
“In its current form, the liabilities of investor-state provisions outweigh their potential value.” Governor Inslee further explains, “It certainly appears that we are susceptible to losing a case if the legal reasoning used in favor of U.S. investors under certain cases in the past were to be applied against our country’s policies in the future.”
Under NAFTA alone, Mexico has already paid more than $200 million in penalties while Canada has shelled out $157 million, with billions of dollars still in dispute.
ISDS was originally promoted as a way of encouraging foreign investment by providing protections for investors. Instead, it has become a powerful tool by which corporations are challenging social and environmental policy, creating new corporate rights but no responsibilities.
Recent trade challenges include lawsuits by a Swedish nuclear power producer against Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima meltdown; a $2 billion lawsuit by US tobacco giant Philip Morris against Uruguay for their requirement that cigarettes are sold in plain packaging, which has already resulted in a weakening of the regulations; and a $250 million lawsuit against Quebec’s moratorium on fracking under their principal waterway, the St. Lawrence Seaway, by a fracking company incorporated in the US but with all of its operations in Canada. Over 500 dispute settlement claims have been filed and the number is growing rapidly.
To worsen matters, language has been proposed for these new trade agreements that would require any government regulation pass a “necessity test,” outlawing any regulation that is “more burdensome than necessary to ensure the quality of the service.”
As Governor Inslee pointed out in his letter, “States maintain many nondiscriminatory regulations to advance important policy objectives that are not related to the quality of service at issue, including those related to environmental protection, land use, labor standards, fair competition and economic development. U.S. law generally permits states to pass nondiscriminatory rules related to such considerations that may burden economic transactions, as long as a rational basis for these rules can be demonstrated. Adopting a necessity test could alter this basic principle and improperly replace it with a standard less deferential to state authority.” (Emphasis added)
Read our collection of reflections by local leaders and organizers, Looking Back, Looking Forward: The Legacy of the Battle for Seattle.
15 years ago on November 30, tens of thousands of people from all walks of life converged on the streets of Seattle and took a stand against the WTO. Unions, environmentalists, faith-based groups, students, stood together to proclaim: trade affects us all, and it should not benefit the rich at the expense of working families, the poor, and the planet.
Today, once again, millions are raising their voices with the same message as neoliberal NAFTA-style trade models proliferate around the globe. Can we bring the spirit of the WTO protests — unity, urgency, people power — to finally demand that space be given for the creation of a new model of trade?
Join Washington Fair Trade Coalition and our allies at a series of events this November looking at the legacy of the WTO protests and how we can continue to carry the banner in the face of massive, secret, corporate-negotiated agreements like the TPP, TTIP, and TISA.
December 2, 3:30 – 6, Seattle
The elections are over, but our Week of Action to Stop Fast Track (Nov. 8-14) is just beginning!
In this notoriously low-accountability period just after elections, Congress is pushing legislation that would “Fast Track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a secretive agreement negotiated behind closed doors by government bureaucrats and more than 600 corporate lobbyists. It threatens everything you care about: democracy, jobs, the environment, and the Internet.
It is time to let our representatives know how we feel about Fast Track and the TPP, and put this undemocratic process to rest for once and for all.
Make Your Voice Heard:
1. Sign our PETITION to Stop Fast Track and the TPP
2. CALL or EMAIL your Congressional Representative
Spread the Word:
- Let’s start the Week of Action with a bang! Click here to join the Thunderclap.
- Sign up for our social media team, and receive daily facebook messages and tweets.
Stop the Sneak Attack on Democracy; Join the Light Brigades!
- Nov 8, 2-6 PM, Rally at Holly and Railroad, Bellingham (public)
- Nov 10, 5:30 PM, Light Brigade, East Plaza lawn by the Korean War Memorial, Olympia (public)
- Nov 11, 5 – 6:30 PM, Protest and Light Brigade, Federal Building, Seattle (public)
- Nov 12, 7-9 PM, with Pierce County Central Labor Council in Tacoma (not open to the public)
- Nov 13, 1 PM, Protest at Rep. Kilmer’s Office at 332 E 5th St, Port Angeles (public)
Write a Letter To Your Editor:
Want to spread the word in your local paper? Contact us to receive a toolkit.
Check out our actions so far, and help us Shine a Light on the Secretive TPP!
Get your tickets at http://
This November marks 15 years since the historic WTO protests in Seattle that changed the discourse around trade, and we are proud to be carrying on that struggle for the well-being of workers, farmers, community members, and people everywhere.
Join us for our annual Fair Trade Breakfast and Fundraiser for the Washington Fair Trade Coalition Education Fund, and help us reach out to Washingtonians in more parts of the state and in the languages of our diverse communities. We need to expand our efforts to daylight the negative impacts of the current trade model and to build an ever-stronger voice for a new, just model.
We are honored to host keynote speakers Celeste Drake, Trade and Globalization Policy Specialist for the AFL-CIO, and Jill Mangaliman, Executive Director from Got Green, two powerful forces in organizing from the global to the local.
Doors open at 7:30 in the morning to mingle and enjoy the breakfast buffet. Program starts at 8 AM, and we’re out by 9! This is a great opportunity to do something in the moment to support trade justice work, to experience the wisdoms of Celeste and Jill, and to connect with activists working on the environment, human rights, labor rights, public health, access to medicines, food security, climate change, immigration, internet freedom — the multitude of issues that intersect with trade policy.
US Trade Representative Michael Froman visited Washington State on Tuesday, August 12 as part of his cross-country tour promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). His full day in the Evergreen State included visiting a Boeing factory, holding a roundtable on agriculture, and speaking at the Washington Council on International Trade. Washington Fair Trade Coalition had the opportunity to join regional labor leaders in a meeting with Ambassador Froman Tuesday afternoon, moderated by Rep. Adam Smith and attended by Rep. Derek Kilmer.
Labor leaders left the meeting unconvinced that the TPP would do enough to protect workers’ rights. They called for new trade policies to reverse the 20-year race to the bottom started with NAFTA, which has shipped living-wage jobs overseas, eroded wages, and weakened job security.
“Our reality is, in the last 15 years every mill in Washington State that has either closed completely or has been downsized, the equipment gets dismantled, then shipped overseas and brought back online producing the very same products that we used to make in America,” Greg Pallesen, Vice President of the Association of the Western Pulp and Paper Workers, told Ambassador Froman at the meeting.
Angela Marshall, with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 46, added “Our members don’t export, but we are affected just like all workers. When some workers are making $0.40 an hour, standards go down for all of us. We’ve performed this grand experiment, where we were promised that trade agreements will raise labor standards around the world, and it hasn’t worked.”
At the meeting, Ambassador Froman argued that progress has been made in the last few years, while acknowledging that we have a long way to go. He assured labor leaders, “You should feel that labor is at the table. There is no group, industry, or civil society group I meet with more.” He also observed that 20 years ago labor interests were side agreements, while now they are built into trade agreements and enforceable by the same mechanisms as commercial rights. “Through these agreements… we are pursuing what I am convinced will the most progressive set of trade agreements in history.”
Labor sees it differently. Lynne Dodson, Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, observes, “Access does not equate to influence.” Rich Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO and a member of the Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) on Trade Policy and Negotiations, expanded on this in a letter to Congress earlier this year. He wrote, “Over the course of the several years of negotiations for the TPP, the LAC has provided scores, if not hundreds, of specific suggestions… few, if any, of these suggestions appear likely to be incorporated into the now almost completed agreement.”
The complete secrecy of these negotiations further short-circuits political engagement. Trumka continues, “Because we cannot share what little we do know with our membership or the larger public, we cannot use the traditional tools that civil society uses to offset the power of economic elites: education, organization, and mobilization of the public.”
Together, these trade agreements would set global standards for labor, environmental, public health, and other critical public policy areas.
“This may be our last chance to get trade right for a generation or two,” says the Washington Fair Trade Coalition’s Gillian Locascio. “Since NAFTA, corporate interests have been writing the rules and our families and communities are suffering for it. Labor and the rest of civil society are saying loud and clear – we need a new, accountable, transparent process that puts public interests on equal footing with investor interests.”
Press release HERE.
Fair Trade not Free Trade: Community Forum on TPP
Saturday, June 28, 3-5 PM
Downtown Branch, Tacoma Public Library (Olympic Room)
Sponsors: * Washington Fair Trade Coalition * Pierce County Central Labor Council * Sierra Club Tatoosh Group * One America * St. Leo’s Social Justice Commission * Fair Trade Market Committee *
How will the TPP impact you as a worker, a consumer, and a community member? Join Tacoma community groups as we come together to educate and mobilize each other around the largest, most secretive free trade agreement (FTA) in history: the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
For four years, the US has been negotiating the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement behind closed doors. Until recently not even Congress could see the negotiating texts, but some 600 corporate lobbyists can. What are they proposing in our names?
What’s On the Table:
- Flooding the U.S. with unsafe food and other consumer products
- Increasing drug prices, decreasing access to medicine
- Bans on “Buy American” policies needed to create green jobs and rebuild our economy
- Freeing Wall Street from oversight
- Empowerment of corporations to attack environment and health safeguards
Who’s at the Table:
- Walmart-Encouraging suppression of labor and environmental standards in the countries in which they do business. Enabling retaliation and murder of labor organizers in their supply chain
- Zyomogenetics-owned by Bristol-Myers Squibb, major player in Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), putting intellectual property rights and patents ahead of global health by reducing access to generic medicines.
- Cargill-advocating for profits over healthy food, eager to dump inexpensive food on developing countries in the name of ‘food security,’ and destruction of forests to create massive, monoculture palm oil farms.
This free and open forum will feature a panel discussion, Q&A, and opportunities for action. Panelists include:
*Dean McGrath, President, International Longshore Workers Union, on job loss and lowered labor protections due to existing trade agreements.
*Robin Everett, Organizing Representative, on how international trade agreements impact environmental regulations.
*Jeff Panek, local activist, WAmend Coalition, on how big money in our elections impacts the US and our trading partners.
*Gillian Locascio, Campaign Coordinator, Washington Fair Trade Coalition, on fair trade principles and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Together, we can raise our voices for a trade policy for the 21st century, one that increases trade and also protects workers, communities, and the environment.
Inspired to take action? Join us at one of our Independence Rallies at the offices to tell your US Congressional Representative, no back room deals for the 1%! We the People want representation in the trade policies that will re-write our domestic laws and impact our lives. Learn more about our upcoming events here.
Main rally: Noon, Monday, June 30, Offices of Derek Kilmer, 950 Pacific Ave.
1:30 PM, Monday, June 30, Offices of Denny Heck, 6000 Main St. SW, Lakewood
Noon, Tuesday, July 1, Offices of Adam Smith, 101 Evergreen Building, 15 S Grady Way, Renton
Last week, a letter asking for stronger labor protections in the Trans-Pacific Partnership was co-signed by 153 members of the House of Representatives, with leadership from U.S. House Representatives Adam Smith and Jim McDermott.
The letter to US Trade Representative Michael Froman described the history of failed promises on labor rights and called for special attention to countries like Vietnam where workers have faced extraordinary abuses. Drawing on these experiences, the letter made a case that once a trade agreement passed by Congress, all leverage to improve labor conditions was lost, and asked the USTR to insist that such countries implement the labor laws and practices negotiated in the agreement before Congress takes up TPP for consideration.
Notably, Representatives Rick Larsen, Suzan DelBene, Derek Kilmer and Denny Heck chose not to sign the letter, despite having signed on to a similar letter seeking strong controls in TPP against currency manipulation and one proposing strong environmental protections in the TPP. All 10 Washington House members (Republicans and Democrats) co-sponsored an earlier letter protecting US cheese and dairy products in TTIP – the trade agreement being negotiated with the European Union.
Please call and thank Jim McDermott and Adam Smith for standing up for labor in trade negotiations.
Take any chance you have to remind Derek Kilmer, Denny Heck, Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen that the environment, currency manipulation, dairy products AND labor rights deserve high priority in our trade policies. We don’t need another trade deal that puts investor rights above public interest.
**Update: Rep. DelBene has written her own letter to USTR expressing her concern for protecting labor standards in the TPP. Rep. DelBene, thank you for joining the majority who have spoken out on this important issue. **
Promises from free trade advocates have fallen short time after time. The burden of proof has now shifted to US Trade negotiators. Our elected officials need to get binding enforceable labor protections in writing before any vote on TPP.
Find your Representative’s contact information here.
See the full Dear Colleague letter: Dear Colleague letter to USTR on Labor Protections in the TPP.
On May 6, as the light waned, groups gathered in Olympia and Seattle to protest the shadowy process and excessive secrecy surrounding the TPP negotiations. It was the culmination of a national Spring Campaign, in which petitions against TPP secrecy, Fast-Track, and the media blackout had been circulated internationally and the numbers of signees beamed onto prominent buildings in D.C. each night. The following day, activists would converge on D.C. to call on the government to end the backroom deals and restore accountability to the negotiations of what would be the biggest free-trade agreement ever signed by the United States.
After a briefing on the status of this massive trade agreement and where local representatives stand by the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, Backbone Campaign taught a short course in how to use light as protest and introduced us to the equipment. For an hour, as people strolled nearby and cars rushed down the freeway, we illuminated prominent buildings with messages against the TPP and directed people to learn more and call their representatives.
Check out our photo album from the actions!
You have ruthless buyers sitting in the U.S. who don’t care what you do, as long as you do it on time… We take a hit every time we’re late. That means lost margins. That means we do what we need to do to make our orders, fast. This factory owner may have been working extra shifts just for that purpose…
–Ali Ahmad, Owner of Nizam Textiles in Karachi, Pakistan1
“Death Trap Factories in Pakistan,”
by National Trade Union Federation, Pakistan
“Pakistan Factory Fires Tied to Criminal Negligence by Government and Employers,”
by Labour Education Foundation, Pakistan
More than 300 trapped workers were killed in two separate fires on the same day—289 workers in an apparel factory in Karachi and 25 workers in a shoe factory in Lahore—a day Nasir Mansoor, leader of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan (NTUF)—calls the “darkest and saddest day in the history of Pakistan’s labor movement.”
The conditions in the Karachi and Lahore factories were reportedly typical of garment factories in Pakistan, and the risk of fire is equally high in many other facilities. Alarmingly, apparel factory fires appear to be increasingly globalized. For many years, we heard mostly about fires in Bangladesh where more than 100 reported factory fires since 1990 have killed more than 750 workers. Now, fires in Pakistan are being reported, and just one day after the Pakistani fires, a fire in a Moscow sweatshop killed 14 Vietnamese immigrants who were trapped behind a door that was locked and barred with a sledgehammer from the outside.2
The horror of this Pakistani fire is yet one more wake-up call for the brands and retailers that cheap products come at a steep price for workers—an unconscionably steep price.
For the complete statement by the International Labor Rights Forum visit: http://laborrightsblog.typepad.com/international_labor_right/2012/09/deadly-denim-workers-burned-alive-making-jeans-for-export.html
Cargill, GlaxoSmithKline, News Corp, Nike and Wal-Mart are just a few of the huge corporations whose voices will be heard by Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators during the 14th round of negotiations that just opened in Leesburg, Virginia.
Project your voice this weekend, too! Click here to find out how.
Email/tweet your comments & Citizen’s Trade Campaign will project them on a large screen inside the resort where negotiators are meeting this Sunday, September 9th. And in the spirit of open dialogue, they are inviting negotiators to post their responses in real time!
What do you want negotiators to hear?
Release the Texts! No More NAFTAs! Don’t Offshore good-paying jobs! Stop attacking environmental and consumer safety policies! More not less regulations on Wall Street! Stop, displacing family farmers! Extend access to generic medicines! Internet Neutrality!! Food Sovereignty! Democracy in US Trade Policy! Don’t undermine US labor laws & environmental regulations! No special tribunals for foreign investors!
Take Action Now!
Tweet at: #opentpp
Are you in the mid-Atlantic region this weekend? Be a part of the TPP: Out of the Shadows! Rally for Good Jobs, Affordable Medicine and a Healthy Environment taking place in Leesburg, Virginia on Sunday, September 9th.