Anti-TPP protesters interrupt Senate hearing

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2015 - Protesters interrupted a Senate Finance Committee hearing today to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations and efforts to pass Trade Promotion Authority through Congress.

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As U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman began his testimony, Margaret Flowers, co-director of a group called PopularResistance.org, walked toward the senators with a sign reading “Trading Away Our Future” and shouted opposition to TPP, holding up the proceedings.

After she was escorted out, Richard Ochs, a retired steelworker from Baltimore, and Kevin Zeese of PopularResistance.org, held up a larger banner reading “TPP Fast Track Job-Killing Act,” and made their way to the front of the hearing room yelling their opinions before being removed by U.S. Capitol police. A row of audience members carried on the protest holding signs from their seats, including “No TPP,” “No Fast Track,” and “Froman Lies.”

The protesters fear TPA will limit congressional oversight over free trade agreements. PopularResistance is opposed to negotiations like TPP, charging that previous trade agreements have had a “devastating impact” on U.S. jobs. The AFL-CIO and unions including the Teamsters are against the TPP and want Congress to reject Trade Promotion Authority, which would allow a president to negotiate a treaty and present it to lawmakers for only an up-or down vote.

Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asked the audience to respect the rights of the speakers and the committee.

“I understand some people have strong feelings about the subject today, but we have to allow civil discussion,” Hatch said.

After Hatch's comments, another man stood up to announce his opposition to trade agreements, saying he lost his job because of similar negotiations that moved his job overseas.

Hatch told the speaker that interrupting a Senate hearing was not the way to influence decision makers. “Let's just stop with the cheap politics,” Hatch said before carrying on with the hearing.

During the hearing, Froman said passage of TPA would help negotiators finalize the TPP, which includes a dozen Pacific Rim nations that account for 40 percent of the world's economy. Froman was also scheduled to testify today before the House Ways and Means Committee.

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