Friends of the Earth protests Pacific trade deal

Posted Dec. 4, 2013 / Posted by: Bill Waren

Friends of the Earth and its allies are protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership: a colossal, job destroying free trade agreement being negotiated in secret among nations bordering the Pacific that will result in rollbacks of environmental, public health, food safety and other public interest protections. Unless we raise our voices in protest, Big Oil, coal mining multi-nationals, bio-tech giants and other global corporations will ram the TPP through Congress using Fast Track trade promotion authority legislation.

Fast Track would allow the TPP to be ratified on an expedited schedule with little debate, no amendments and a straight up or down vote. This turns the U.S. Constitution upside down -- the founders intended for Congress, not trade bureaucrats indebted to corporate polluters, to regulate trade with foreign nations.

U.S. Trade Rep. Michael Froman is making a concerted effort to generate political support among environmentalists for the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. On Tuesday afternoon, November 19, a major event was held at Charlie Palmer’s Steak House, a restaurant located near the Capitol building, during which Froman asked conservation and environmental groups for their backing. Friends of the Earth joined community activists demonstrating outside the steak house to protest Froman’s attempt to characterize the TPP as environmentally friendly.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, had this to say: “Friends of the Earth sent a clear message to Ambassador Froman that while we support enforceable conservation commitments within the TPP, the deal as a whole is a huge danger to the planet. In particular, the investment chapter would allow multinational corporations to undermine important environmental and health regulations. It would also have a chilling effect on future environmental policies that are desperately needed to address climate change, save ecosystems and protect communities.

In a bit of street theater in front of the steak house, activists dressed as chefs with the names of corporations like Monsanto, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Goldman-Sachs, and others on their white hats. The "corporate chefs" used large "TPP cleavers" to cut up a cake representing Earth and to divide it among themselves. Click on this link to watch a D.C. Indymedia video of the action.

Speakers at the rally included Manuel Perez-Rocha, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, who has been one of the most prominent and eloquent Mexican opponents of unfair U.S. sponsored trade deals, going back to the fight over the North American Free Trade Agreement 20 years ago

Perez-Rocha spoke with passion and authority about the environmental and financial cost of U.S. style investment chapters in NAFTA, the Central America Free Trade Agreement, and now, the TPP. "It is incredible that after 20 years of NAFTA we still have to warn about the dangers of the outrageous privileges that free trade agreements like the proposed TPP would grant to ruthless corporations.”

“My country, Mexico,” Perez-Rocha recalled, "has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to transnationals like the toxic waste disposal company Metalclad or the agribusiness transnational Cargill for daring not to allow environmentally destructive projects or for seeking to implement job creation programs that affect profits.”

That was just the start of the trouble for poor countries as Perez-Rocha explained: “And beyond NAFTA, Central America is faring worse with these investor agreements. El Salvador, a poor country trying to defend its fresh waters from cyanide-leach gold mining, is being sued at a World Bank tribunal for more than $300 million.

“The number of these cases is exploding and the stakes are rising. Costa Rica is being sued also by a gold mining company for more than $1 billion. That is why we say, NO to the TPP”

The November TPP protest at Charlie Palmer’s Steak House follows two other TPP rallies this Fall, in which Friends of the Earth played a prominent role. At a September 20 rally in front of U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman’s office across the street from the White House complex, Public Citizen, labor unions, Friends of the Earth and others protested the exclusion of civil society from TPP negotiations in Washington D.C. Brent Blackwelder, president emeritus of Friends of the Earth, was a featured speaker at the rally. Also, Friends of the Earth arranged for a New York street theater group to perform a Darth Banker and TPP Death Star routine at the rally. The next day, Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica was a featured speaker at a big Seattle climate rally and TPP protest, where hundreds cheered in agreement with his call for a fair deal or no deal on the Pacific trade agreement.

Erich Pica, Brent Blackwelder and other Friends of the Earth speakers at these three rallies in the autumn of 2013 delivered a strong message to the public:

Big oil and other dirty energy companies want to ramrod the TPP deal through Congress using Fast Track, thereby protecting free trade in tar sands oil, coal and liquefied natural gas. This is a recipe for climate catastrophe.

Drop the investment chapter from the TPP agreement. It allows business-friendly tribunals to assess money damages in the millions or billions against governments to compensate corporations for the cost of complying with environmental and climate policies. Tell your Member of Congress to vote “NO” on Fast Track trade legislation and the Trans-Pacific trade deal.

Act now to stop corporations like Chevron and Monsanto from expediting the Trans Pacific Partnership via the Fast Track bill.

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