Protestors wearing masks, singing songs and waving signs stood outside of Rep. Joe Crowley’s (D-Bronx, Queens) office in Jackson Heights, asking him to come out against fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a free trade agreement that also would give foreign corporations the ability to sue the United States for unlimited sums in international tribunals.
“Congressman Crowley is one of only two New York Democrats in the House who haven’t spoken out against fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Adam Weissman of Global Justice for Animals and the Environment. “Fast track renders Congress powerless to amend TPP to ensure that this trade deal won’t empower foreign corporations to attack the laws that protect us in international tribunals, resulting in more fracking, factory farms and contaminated food.”
As a result of similar provisions under other trade agreements, Costa Rica is being sued for $1 billion for not allowing a mining company to destroy the nation’s rainforest, Canada is being sued over a ban on fracking in Quebec and Peru is being sued for demanding cleanup of a metal smelter site believed to be one of the 10 most toxic sites on the planet, according to the protest organizers.
The group of protesters, made up of dozens of social issue groups including Occupy Wall Street, the People’s Puppets of Occupy Wall Street and Socialist Alternative Queens Branch, fear similar suits will be filed against the United States if the TPP is approved.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade deal between the United States and Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
If Congress gives the president fast-track authority on the TPP — which means members could not add amendments to the bill — the deal would bring in about $223 billion in global income benefits per year by 2025 with real income benefits to the U.S. estimated at $77 billion per year, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
Despite those expected benefits, the ralliers, who gathered at Crowley’s office last Friday, fear that the partnership will lead to more and more companies seeking labor from international sweatshops, or “slave labor,” which has been the result of other trade partnerships between other countries.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership could spell disaster for communities large and small that are seeking to protect themselves from all sorts of public health and environmental dangers, dangers like fracking, for example,” Corinne Rosen, a senior organizer with Food & Water Watch, a consumer protection group, said. “These monstrous trade deals, negotiated secretly in the halls of Washington, are boons for multinational corporations that seek to profit at the expense of American jobs and American health and safety standards.”
Crowley, who voted against fast track in 2002, has not voiced his opinion on the partnership despite every other city representative expressing dissatisfaction with it.
“... he needs to let us know where he stands now, with the corporations who want to offshore New York jobs to overseas sweat shops or with the working families of Queens and the Bronx,” Megan McGee of Crowley Constituents for TradeJustice, said.
Crowley’s office said the congressman will make his decision after he reviews the legislation further.
“One of the most important parts of his job is hearing from constituents, and Congressman Crowley appreciates those who visited his office to share their view,” a spokesman for Crowley said in a written statement. “The Congressman votes on trade agreements based on their individual merits and their impact on jobs, national security, and families and communities. He has opposed a number of trade deals like Most Favored Nations status for China, the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“With respect to the Trade Promotion Authority legislation that President Obama requested in the State of the Union address, this has not yet come before the House for a vote but Congressman Crowley did vote against the measure the last time it came before Congress.”