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TPP Opponents Crash Obama's Beverly Hills Fundraiser

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For Immediate Release                        
November 25, 2013      
Contact: Lauren Steiner 310-273-9031, 310-948-0656 (during rally hours only)                                                                    

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Hundreds of Californians will rally in the streets of Beverly Hills this afternoon to call for an end to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement, while a multi-million dollar Democratic fundraiser featuring President Barack Obama and party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid takes place nearby.  

"Four years into these secret negotiations, the secret is out. The TPP is a trade agreement of, by and for the one percent," said protest organizer activist Lauren Steiner. "The President has clearly done a one-eighty on all his campaign promises regarding trade. The question is whether Members of Congress are going to follow him or stand with their constituents. People are sick of politicians in the pocket of big business who continue to push these corporate power grabs disguised as trade agreements. We are calling on Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to immediately abandon the TPP, and focus instead on the work that needs to be done to improve the health of our economy and our environment."

The 20th major round of negotiations on the twelve-nation TPP concluded last week in Salt Lake City, Utah, without a final agreement. Trade ministers from each of the countries involved will be meeting again from December 7 to December 10 in Singapore in another attempt to conclude the 29-chapter pact, which covers not only tariffs and quotas, but also financial regulations, food safety standards, energy exports, medicine patents, Internet protocols, government procurement and more.

"Anyone who cares about promoting sustainable agriculture, labeling genetically engineered foods, or protecting food safety, should oppose the TPP," said Zack Kaldveer, a spokesperson for the Organic Consumers Association. "This secret trade deal would grant a few transnational corporations unprecedented power to undermine the health and well-being of consumers and the planet in the pursuit of profits."

Labor, environmental, consumer, public health and family farm organizations have all expressed serious reservations about the direction of the TPP, if not outright opposition. While the administration has kept its proposals for the TPP a tightly guarded secret, leaked texts first published by WikiLeaks and others have been criticized by a range of typically left-leaning constituency groups.

"The copyright enforcement provisions in the TPP pose a huge threat to a free and open Internet and impose harmful restrictions on how users can use their digital devices," said Maira Sutton from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Hollywood industries have heavily influenced the TPP negotiations to strengthen copyright restrictions in ways that will censor content and stifle digital innovation."

"If the United States is allowed to have its way, the TPP will extend patents for pharmaceuticals and procedures for exorbitant lengths of time which will inflate prices and keep care out of reach of those who need it," said Maureen Cruise, RN, LA director, Health Care for All and Green Shadow Cabinet member. "Fundamentally, the TPP is being written to funnel more wealth to private medical corporations, destroy our public health systems and prevent an equitable and just single payer system."

The leaked TPP texts, as well as the earlier Korea, Colombia and Panama Free Trade Agreements, all reveal that the President has not kept his 2008 campaign promises to protect "Buy America" government procurement preferences, to insist upon enforcement of International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions and to oppose giving foreign corporations greater rights than those enjoyed by American citizens and small businesses.

"The lack of transparency and the degree of secrecy surrounding the process for negotiating the TPP raise serious concerns about an agreement that will affect 40 percent of the world's economy, and necessitate a thorough evaluation by Congress," said Lance Simmens, California Director of Citizens Trade Coalition. "Recent revelations by Wikileaks suggest that these concerns are warranted and that this agreement should not move forward."

A September study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that any gains associated with the TPP would go to the top 5 to 10% of American households, with the bottom 90% of the country experiencing a net loss under the agreement in the form of reduced wages.

"Passing the TPP will result in more American jobs being outsourced to foreign countries, more downward pressure on the wages of American workers, the continued erosion of workers' rights in the U.S., and a significant weakening of Buy American provisions," said Ernie Pacheco, Environmental Programs coordinator, Communications Workers of America.

On November 13, three-fourths of House Democrats sent a letter informing the President that they would oppose "Fast Track" procedures he has requested that would allow the TPP to circumvent ordinary Congressional review, amendment and debate procedures.  "We will oppose 'Fast Track' Trade Promotion Authority or any other mechanism delegating Congress' constitutional authority over trade policy that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative stages of trade agreements," they wrote.

The Beverly Hills protest comes on the heels of a week of protests at the informal talks in Salt Lake City last week. "Americans are waking up to the antidemocratic nature of such policies as the TPP," said author Marianne Williamson. "And we're not standing for it anymore. All around the country, people are shining the light on this multi-national corporate coup. The good news is, if our government thought they could just sneak this one by us, they were wrong."