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Presbytery approves resolution to officially oppose trade moves

By Mark Strothmann, Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy Joining Hands

Mark Strothmann

Mark Strothmann speaking at a Town Hall meeting in St. Louis in February about the TPP. Other speakers were from labor unions, the Sierra Club, and human rights organizations. Photo Courtesy of Mark Strothmann.

Since 2001, the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy’s Joining Hands Peru Partnership has been working in La Oroya, Peru with our mission partners, Red Uniendo Manos Peru, the Peru Joining Hands network of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.  La Oroya is the home of a lead smelting plant owned by Renco Group, Inc.  The focus of our work together has been to draw attention to the severe environmental and health consequences of lead and seek remedies from the pollution.

Our journey with our partners took an unexpected turn when, under the terms of the US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, the Renco Group sued the Peruvian government alleging that the government’s enforcement of environmental agreements prevented them from making their anticipated profits.

Suddenly, we became international trade activists.  Together with the Hudson River Presbytery, the Joining Hands office of the Presbyterian Hunger Program in Louisville, and Red Uniendo Manos Peru, we began an international campaign to shed light on other “free trade” agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), that include similar provisions that allow international companies to sue sovereign governments when they enforce their own laws and agreements.

We are opposed to the TPP, as it is currently being negotiated, because it is being negotiated in secrecy, and threatens environmental and food safety standards, regulation of the banking industry, accessibility to generic pharmaceuticals, democratic principles and the sovereignty of governments.

At the local level, in Missouri and Illinois, where our Presbytery is located, this work has led us into coalitions with labor and environmental groups that also oppose the TPP. We have helped to organize several ‘teach-ins” and have visited congressional home offices, sent e-mails, and written letters.

Inspired by Hudson River Presbytery, we also asked our Presbytery to pass a resolution opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership, in its current form, as well as Trade Promotion Authority, the so-called “Fast Track” which would allow Congress to approve TPP without public discourse.  In August of 2014, we presented our resolution to the Presbytery as a “first reading” and held a workshop to explain it.  We held another workshop before the November Presbytery meeting when the vote was taken; our resolution passed without objection.

It was a worthwhile effort.  Not only did we educate members of the Presbytery about TPP and Fast Track, we took a stand.  Just recently, I was asked to speak at a Town Hall Meeting in St. Louis on TPP.   When asked about my credentials to speak on the subject, I could say that I represented a major religious organization in the city that opposes TPP.  We also informed the members of Congress from our area about our action.  Our Stated Clerk sent letters to 4 Senators and 7 Representatives.  We are making our voices heard!

Read the Resolution.

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