Trade ministers meet, protesters converge on Maui
KAANAPALI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - - Economic ministers from 12 nations, including the United States, are holding talks on the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership on Maui. And their gathering has attracted protesters opposed to the trade treaty.
The U.S., Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Canada and Mexico are among the nations involved in the negotiations at Kaanapali. While the trade ministers talked inside, dozens of protesters gathered on the beach outside Wednesday. They contend the treaty would kill environmental protections, increase the costs of medicines and drive down wages.
The Obama Administration says the T.P.P. will make it easier to export American goods and services to Asian countries, with the aim of putting the U.S. back in the center of trading in the Asia-Pacific region.
"This trading pattern has shifted, and so most of what used to be some of our major trading partners in the Asia Pacific -- they still are our trading partners, but rather than us being the number one trading partner, it would be China," said Patrick Bratton, an assistant professor of political science at Hawaii Pacific University.
Opponents also contend that it would give corporations the power to sue taxpayers over laws they don't like.
"We could have instances where foreign companies or other countries sue the United States over, say, our minimum wage or other liability laws that we have because maybe that would be an unfair trade practice, according to the agreement," said Bratton.
The trade ministers are supposed to be wrapping up some kind of agreement when the Maui sessions end.
"The goal was shared to reach agreement on the outlines of a deal at this round," said Japan Economic Minister Akira Amari.
The treaty's opponents include Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who along with protesters, is concerned that the talks are secretive. However, Bratton said that is normal procedure for trade negotiations.
"So it's not out until it's all agreed upon," he said. "And so we won't really know sort of the good and the bad, if you will, until it gets enacted."
The T.P.P. negotiations on Maui are scheduled to conclude on Friday.
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