PORTLAND, OR- A disruptive piece of street theatre halted the brisk Black Friday business at Nike’s Factory Store in NE Portland to call attention to the company’s role in the TransPacific Partnership (TPP). A Nike executive was actually in the store, shopping with his family and activists delivered a letter of demands to him. In the last fiscal quarter, Nike spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying in support of the TPP. The Beaverton-based company is specifically pushing for a section of the agreement to eliminate import tariffs on shoes which would save the multibillion dollar corporation hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
The removal of these tariffs would lead thousands of American jobs to be outsourced to Vietnam, where Nike employs over 300,000 people. Vietnamese factories employ forced and child labor, according to a US report and workers are denied the ability to organize and not provided with basic safety protections.
“Nike might spin this saying that this is good for their sweatshop workers in Vietnam. However, Nike is only in Vietnam because the workers there don’t enjoy the same hard-won protections that we do here, such as fair compensation, safe working conditions and the right to organize. Nike’s overriding concern for the cheapest possible labor demonstrates the inhumane economic principles that are upheld by the TPP. “ said protest organizer Nathan Eisenberg.
The Trans Pacific Partnership is the most ambitious trade agreement in U.S history, and is being negotiated in private between twelve countries and representing 40% of global GDP. The wide-reaching trade agreement extends far beyond removing trade tariffs and includes sections that cover everything from extending pharmaceutical patents, curtailing environmental regulations and limiting internet privacy.
“We are demanding that Nike stop undermining democracy by lobbying for secret trade deals that only increase systems of inequality, displacement and oppression. Recovering the costs from some tariffs is not worth the planet and the wellbeing of people all over the globe.”, said the protesters in a letter to the company.
Despite the broad scope of the treaty, the negotiations remain veiled in secrecy with the draft text available only to the negotiators and 600 corporate advisors. Public information about the treaty has come mainly from leaks, including the chapter on Intellectual Property recently released by Wikileaks. Furthermore, the Obama Administration is pushing for Fast Track, which, if approved would allow the approval of the treaty to avoid congressional review. This secrecy and lack of congressional oversight has led groups such as Public Citizen and CREDO to call this trade deal unprecedented and to claim that its passage would undermine the democratic process.
The protest came right before the Global Day of Action Against Toxic Trade Agreements on December 3rd.