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Opponents Protest Trans-Pacific Free Trade Zone Talks

Opponents of a proposed trans-Pacific free trade zone will protest the 13th round of negotiations set to begin today at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.

The United States, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, Peru, Mexico, and Canada are set to take part in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

A coalition of groups affiliated with the Occupy San Diego movement and organized labor say they will protest outside the hotel and a "Fair Trade Not Free Trade'' rally led by the San Diego and Imperial County Labor Council will begin at noon in an adjacent park.

This evening, a five-night event called "People's Conference: A Better World Is Possible!'' will begin at the Logan Heights Public Library. The conference will be in different locations each night.

A march through downtown is scheduled for Saturday.

Opponents say the proposed trade deal would send jobs to low-wage countries, attack environmental and consumer safety standards, and expand the deregulation of banks, hedge funds and insurance companies, among other things.

They complained about the secretive nature of the negotiations.

They've picked up an unlikely ally in Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, a conservative businessman who said he shares the concern over secretiveness when it comes to intellectual property rights and Internet freedom. Last week, he asked Ron Kirk, the U.S. trade representative, to let him and his staff observe the negotiations.

"Given the immense impact that this agreement will have on many areas of the American economy, including intellectual property, I respectfully request that you allow me and certain members of my staff to be present as

observers for this round of negotiations,'' Issa wrote in a letter to Kirk.

"It is my hope that observing the negotiating process firsthand will help to alleviate some of my concerns about the process through which the agreement is being negotiated.''

Issa said the Obama administration needs to be more transparent about what it's pushing for in the trade talks.

Kirk's office tried to address the transparency issue with a statement earlier this month that said his office has engaged numerous stakeholder groups and individuals and invited the public, business and labor groups to the sites of three previous rounds of negotiations. The statement said, however, that the years-long negotiations often touched on sensitive topics that require confidentiality.

According to the U.S. Trade Representative, a Pacific free trade zone will allow the United States to export more products to Asia and Pacific nations, which will result in more jobs at home.


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