The International Trade Education Squad (ITES) would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Coop’s membership who voted at the April 25 GM to make our squad permanent.
We were overjoyed to hear the overwhelming support we received from members at the GM. Many people rose to express that our presentations and publications over the past two years have opened their eyes to substantial concerns with regard to international trade agreements, as they are currently being negotiated. Since we were first authorized to start the squad two years ago, we have published 23 articles, all of which are cataloged and easily available on the archive section of our blog , and we also held 13 Open Forums.
We have participated in academic conventions and organized conference calls to educate ourselves. We’ve coordinated with other groups that study and advocate on this issue, such as Food and Water Watch, Trade Justice Alliance, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club, and held meetings with union representatives and elected officials at the city, state, and federal levels (both House and Senate), with impressive results.
In the run-up to a possible vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), through a combination of publications and presentations, the ITES educated the Coop’s membership, our community, and our elected officials about concerns inherent to the secret negotiations conducted by the governments of the 12 participating Pacific Rim nations. Once the text of the agreement was released, it was clear that the provisions of the TPP, like previously negotiated international trade agreements, overly favored corporate interests at the expense of the values formulated in our Coop mission statement, such as environmental protection, food safety, and fair labor practices.
We found the April GM to be particularly productive because of the constructive feedback the membership gave to us—for which we are equally grateful. Going forward, we plan to take members’ suggestions to heart, while we continue to pursue our mission of education and advocacy regarding international trade agreements. We will try to use less jargon, take a broader and more even-handed view, and rather than only oppose how agreements have been negotiated in the past, we will educate ourselves and the membership on how international trade agreements should, indeed, be negotiated to better represent our values.
We will continue to educate ourselves, the Coop membership, and our community about “Fair Trade” principles and organizations that set and enforce environmental, social, and economic standards, in order to protect the environment, promote both food quality and safe, healthy working conditions, and to empower individuals and communities in countries we partner with to build businesses. In order to achieve the ambitious goals we have set for ourselves, the ITES will need to fill all seven work-credit slots provided to the ITES by the GM. Currently, we have one opening, and members who are interested in joining our squad should please email spmetz (at) earthlink (dot) net. Furthermore, we sincerely welcome input from all members of the Coop in any form, including conversations in person or at our Open Forums, and messages on our Facebook page
By Christopher P. Marshall, ITES