WASHINGTON--The Obama administration picked Chicago to host an international trade negotiation meeting next month for a potentially controversial pact known as the "Trans-Pacific Partnership."
The meeting is being organized by the office of the United States Trade Representative. A USTR official told me Chicago was selected as a venue last July.
Thousands of demonstrators who are opposed to the agreement as it stands now may come to Chicago to protest, starting with a Sept. 5 rally in Grant Park.
The ongoing Asia-Pacific regional trade agreement negotiations--the Chicago meeting marks the eighth round-- are between the U.S. and Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Trade representatives from those countries--and stakeholders, including corporations with global interests-- will be gathering at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan. A stakeholder forum is set for Sept. 10.
"Chicago is one of America's great cities. Logistical considerations included the fact that it's an airline hub and thus easy for delegations to get to, expected good weather (and) good meeting space," the USTR official told me.
The USTR has been working with Mayor Rahm Emanuel staffers on some elements of the meeting.
Emanuel, President Obama's former White House Chief of Staff, wrangled Chicago as the site for NATO and G8 summits next May, major gatherings of global leaders. Compared to these meetings, the September trade talks are nowhere as big and the players are at the minister level--not national leaders.
Organized labor is skeptical of this deal--and other pending free trade agreements Congress may be considering later this year.
"Labor, environmental, public health, consumer and community advocates from Chicago and beyond will also be present to demand a "Fair Deal or No Deal," the Citizens Trade Campaign said in a memo issued on Friday. Labor organizations are major members of the group.
"Civil society organizations will be holding a rally on Labor Day in Chicago's Grant Park to demonstrate public opposition to business-as-usual trade policy and to make basic demands of negotiators regarding labor rights, the environment, access to medicine, financial regulations and other social and economic justice issues," the memo said.
Negotiators met in Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam last June for the last round of talks; after the Chicago meeting Peru hosts a follow-up session in October. The goal is to have an outline of an agreement by November, when APEC, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, meets in Honolulu--with the Obama team awarding APEC to the city where Obama was born.
Local groups monitoring the trade meeting in Chicago, Obama's adopted hometown, are: the Chicago Federation of Labor; Chicago Jobs with Justice; Chicago and Midwest Regional Board of Workers United; Chicago Teachers Union; Citizens Trade Campaign; Communications Workers of America (CWA); CWA National Women's Committee; Friends of the Earth; HealthGAP; International Association of Machinists; International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Public Citizen; Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Sierra Club; Stand Up! Chicago; United Electrical Workers (UE) and United Steelworkers.