Wednesday, August 28, 2013

200K strike against trade in Colombia as TPP fears mount

An astonishing 200,000 Colombian workers have been on strike for the past 10 days against unfair trade, privatization and poverty. It's the latest sign that the world is awakening to the dangers of the latest job-killing trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

In Colombia, farmers, dairy workers, miners, health care workers and students are striking to protest falling living standards caused by trade. At the forefront are farmers, who warn that competition from subsidized U.S. agribusiness is plunging them into extreme poverty.

The Miami Herald reported: 
The agrarian strike, as it’s known, is broad-based and far-flung. Coffee, cacao, potato and rice farmers have joined ranks with cargo truckers, gold miners and others. Teachers and labor unions are also joining in. Their demands are equally ample, calling for reduced fuel and fertilizer prices, the cancellation of free trade agreements, increased subsidies and the end of a crackdown on informal mining operations, among others.
Dave Johnson, writing for the Campaign for America’s Future, notes the strike highlights the failure of the Colombian trade deal -- and serves as a warning about the TPP:
A huge new trade deal is coming up soon. This is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), called by some the “mother of all free-trade deals” and by others the “Corporate Deathstar.” It is a job-loss runaway train that is coming straight at us.
Congress and the public are waking up to the threat posed by the TPP, where talks are getting underway in Brunei with the U.S. and about a dozen Pacific Rim nations, including Vietnam. Earlier this week, Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman saying he wants to discuss Vietnam’s tolerance of worker abuse, including child slavery.

Hoffa asked how the United States plans to proceed with trade talks in light of a recent Department of Labor finding that showed solid evidence of child slavery in Vietnam's garment factories, as well as a report that detailed abhorrent working conditions. Hoffa wrote that a letter sent by Rep. GeorgeMiller to Froman last month raised many issues that need to be answered:
I take this opportunity to echo [Miller’s] good questions and support his request for you to describe what specific steps the Administration is prepared to take to ensure that Vietnam can comply with the basic labor rights that we take for granted in the U.S.
Hoffa also noted reports that showed the U.S. trade deficit during the first half of 2013 fell from $227 billion to $225 billion, a good sign for working Americans. But he added that the Teamsters and others are concerned that enactment of the TPP could reverse that trend.

Maybe the message is starting to sink in. Froman said late last week that the U.S. would not be pushed into completing the trade pact until it is satisfied with the deal:
We are not rushing into an agreement to meet any particular deadline.
An anti-TPP rally is planned in Montreal tomorrow, and American labor unions are urging their members to write their representative in Congress to oppose the deal. The TPP will pass unless YOU act now. Just click here to send an email.