Anti-trade deal protesters hijack Senate TPP hearing

FILE PHOTO (Reuters / David Gray)
​Protesters opposed to a major, multi-national trade deal being negotiated in secret by a dozen countries – including the United States – hijacked a US Senate hearing early Tuesday to speak out against the proposal.

Capitol Police removed no fewer than three demonstrators Tuesday morning during testimony delivered before the Senate Committee on Finance by US Trade Representative Michael Froman concerning the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

Froman had just begun making his opening statements when a protester in the Senate gallery got out of her seat and interrupted the ambassador.

“You are not telling the American people the truth,” said the woman.

“We know that the TPP has been negotiated in secret for five years. You’re trying to rush it through Congress and fast track it because its secret and you know that the things in there are going to hurt the American people,” she said.

As the woman was escorted out of the room, other demonstrators began displaying signs, including lawyer and activist Kevin Zeese.

“We believe in Democracy, not secrecy,” Zeese said as he unfurled a large white banner inscribed with anti-TPP slogans.

Post by C-SPAN.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), the Committee’s chairman, attempted to rein the hearing in while acknowledging the ambivalence concerning the TPP — a 12-nation proposal that would encode new trade rules for intellectual property and market access and eliminate long-existing tariffs while, according to opponents like intellectual Joe Stiglitz, "restrict access to knowledge."

In addition to IP restrictions, critics have also taken issue with the lack of transparency concerning meetings between potential TPP partners, including the US and several nations in the Asia-Pacific region. Draft documents have previously been published by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in an effort to disclose as much of the agreement as possible before it is adopted, but opponents of the proposal in the US have expressed concern that Congress could “fast track” the deal to expedite authorization by presenting it to the House and Senate with no amendments attached.

READ MORE:TPP Uncovered: WikiLeaks releases draft of highly-secretive multi-national trade deal

“I understand that some people have strong feelings about the subject were talking about today. That’s fine,” Hatch told the protesters. “The First Amendment guarantees your right to express your views, but we have to allow civil discussion to occur in the context of this hearing.”

Ambassador Froman soon after continued his testimony, but was almost immediately interrupted by another protester who said the “big business corporate secret deals are costing American jobs.”

Protesters then held up signs, including one reading “Fast Track: Constitutional Train Wreck,” before Froman attempted once again to continue his testimony.

According to a written statement prepared by Froman ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, the Office of the US Trade Representative is narrowing in on finalizing TPP negotiations, expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

“At the TPP Leaders meeting in November convened by President Obama, all 12 countries took note of the progress that has been made on TPP, and agreed that the end of the negotiation is now coming into focus. And the TPP countries reaffirmed their commitment to concluding a comprehensive, high-standard agreement, and to work toward finalizing the TPP agreement as soon as possible,” Froman said.

"We are not done yet but I feel confident that we are making good progress and we can close out a positive package soon," said the ambassador, adding that his office’s agenda “is committed to supporting more good jobs, promoting growth and strengthening America’s middle class.”

Along with the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan have expressed interest in signing the TPP.

Thom Hartmann gives his take on TPP and explains why it is 'Cement shoes & into the river for the middle class'