Chicago Activists Will Protest Asia-Pacific Trade Deal

By Reuters An umbrella group of activists opposed to a proposed U.S. trade deal with eight countries in the Asia Pacific region said Friday they aim to raise public awareness of its potential effects on jobs and the environment when negotiators meet next month in Chicago. "We're working to drag the trade negotiations out of the shadows and make some very basic demands around issues that are of crucial concern to people's lives," Lauren Cumbia, deputy director of Stand Up! Chicago, told reporters in a conference call. "The point is, people are going to be very active." Cumbia estimated between 500 and 1,500 activists would take part in a Sept. 5 Labor Day rally in Chicago's Grant Park against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, followed by a march to the hotel where talks are set for Sept. 6-15. They also plan to deliver 10,000 postcards to negotiators calling for strong labor and environmental provisions in the pact and language ensuring "respect for family farms" and the ability of poor people to have access to affordable life-saving medicine, she said. Mainstream U.S. farm and business groups support the agreement, which they see as key to boosting U.S. exports and keeping a check on China's growing might in the region. But Ron Baiman, a former professor of economics now with the Chicago Political Economy Group, said previous trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement have mainly helped multinational corporations and cost American workers jobs in the manufacturing sector. "To the extent that Washington and the (Obama) administration are still being influenced by corporate priorities, they are missing the ball in terms of what our country needs, what our domestic economy needs," Baiman said. The United States is hosting the eighth round of TPP talks in the run-up to a summit meeting of the 21 members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum this November in Hawaii. No final deal is expected in Chicago, which was U.S. President Barack Obama's home before becoming president and where his former chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel is now mayor. But there are plans for leaders of the nine TPP countries — Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam and the United States — to sign off on the "broad outlines" of a final agreement in November so substantial progress could be made in Chicago. Obama, a Democrat, also hopes to win approval of trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama left over from the Republican administration of former President George Bush after U.S. lawmakers return from their August break. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch and a longtime foe of "NAFTA-style" trade agreements, told reporters Obama was making a mistake pursuing the trade deals that would hurt him with unions, environmentalists and other members of the Democratic Party's political base. Read original post here.