By Eric Gill – Financial Secretary-Treasurer
Oahu residents were groaning under the impact of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. Parks and beaches were inaccessible or closed, roads were blocked unexpectedly and even the freeway shut down. Waikiki was under martial law conditions, with concrete barricades, car searches, workers subject to background checks to determine if they could work, security passes needed to enter various areas, and even offshore surf sites closed.
Adding insult to injury, right after teachers and other public workers were forced to take pay and benefit cuts, millions of our tax money was spent to spiff up landscaping and push our most unfortunate out of what little they can call home. This our government did in order to put on a show for the richest of the rich and their politician servants — the very ones who caused (and benefitted from) the economic crisis that has cut our services, impoverished our public workers, and put our families out on the street.
Whether Hawaii’s visitor industry will get a boost in business travel out of this is debatable, but one thing is certain: We have tainted the vacations of the visitors we already have.
And for what? Just what went on at the APEC talks that was worth the nuisance and expense? It’s all a big secret, but the facts are beginning to emerge, despite the secrecy and the distraction of self-promoting politicians making speeches.
APEC was about working on a dirty deal to benefit global banks and corporations at the expense of the rest of us. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal that the 1 percent continues to cook up represents a massive corporate/bank end-run around our laws, protections, rights and self-determination.
Labor laws to ensure basic standards for workers in our community; environmental and consumer protection laws; land use laws; even laws to control health care costs — they are talking about how to get around all these. Even laws protecting Hawaiian lands are in danger, rendering Hawaiian sovereignty meaningless.
But it is not only Hawaii’s native peoples’ sovereignty that is being undermined. It is the sovereign rights of Hawaii and the United States as well.
All nations signing trade deals like TPP are giving up sovereignty rights to corporations and banks. The provisions of this secret agreement would allow private entities — banks and corporations — to bring suit in international courts to enforce the terms.
This has already happened under previous “free trade” scams like NAFTA. Mexican corporations have been successful in ignoring safety and anti-pollution laws that took decades of struggle to put in place — unsafe and polluting Mexican trucks, with drivers paid under Mexican wage and benefit standards, now have free access to American highways, competing with American truckers who respect American laws.
Even future laws we would like to pass will be prevented. For example, the governor’s idea that Hawaii should buy food from local farmers to feed our school children — that could be prevented along with any other Buy Hawaii or Buy American programs.
The 1 percent pushing the TTP deal at conferences like APEC is even talking about rules that would prevent us from promoting generic drugs and force us to buy hideously overpriced patented drugs.
And they want to extend the years that pharmaceutical companies can keep new drugs under patent, thereby maintaining their breathtaking monopoly prices for drugs.
All of us — or at least 99 percent of us — will be the victims, and the big pharmaceutical companies and the banks that own them — the 1 percent — will generate even bigger profits off our illnesses and aging.
APEC and TPP now seem to be just another scheme to stick it to the 99 percent of us who work for a living.
No wonder APEC put up walls, barricades, traffic stops and road closures to keep Hawaii’s people away from them — they were up to no good.