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Free Trade Negotiations Sneak Up On San Diego

Carol Guthrie, Asst. U.S. Trade Representative, and Celeste Drake, a trade and globalization policy expert with the AFL-CIO, talk to KPBS about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement.

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Representatives from nine Pacific Rim countries were in San Diego this week to hold the 13th round of negotiations for a proposed Pacific Rim free trade zone called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The meeting was met with protests from the San Diego Labor Council and the Occupy movement and dissatisfaction from some members of Congress.

Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative told KPBS a free-trade zone will allow the U.S. to export more products to Asia and other Pacific nations, leading to more jobs at home. But labor organizations and the Occupy movement say the agreement will result in more jobs being sent offshore.

"We were glad to have folks from the labor movement and Occupy not only outside the hotel, but inside in the hotel for our stakeholder engagement this week so we can talk a little more about what’s going on, so more people can learn about the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Guthrie said.

Celeste Drake, a trade and globalization policy expert with the labor organization AFL-CIO, said protestors have numerous concerns.

“They’re talking about jobs, they’re talking about human rights and labor rights, they’re talking about environmental protections, they’re talking about trade rules that will work for working people and not just for the multinational corporations,” she said.

Drake said the U.S. government has proposed some protections for the environment and workers. But with so many countries involved in the negotiations, she said those proposals might not be accepted.

Guthrie added that the U.S. already trades with Asian companies but “we can trade more and we can trade better.”

She said the U.S. will not accept an outcome that doesn’t “put the rights of workers on the same footing as commercial interests.”

San Diego Congressman Bob Filner has expressed dismay that the negotiations are not more public and noted that he voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Congressman Darrell Issa asked to attend the negotiations but was turned down.

Drake said NAFTA was a failure and said the Trans-Pacific Partnership "is our chance to fix it."

"And if we don’t fix it, it will be ‘NAFTA 2: The Revenge,’” she said.

Guthrie said the negotiations bring “really good news for people who have these concerns” because Canada and Mexico have been invited to join Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trans-Pacific Member nations are the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Vietnam and Singapore.


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