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Action Alert

TradeJustice Activists and Secaucus, NJ Mayor Meet with Representative Rothman's Staff on Panama, South Korea, and Colombia Free Trade Agreements

New Jersey Congressman Steve Rothman

On Tuesday, September 27, 2011, after weeks of pressing for a meeting, trade justice advocates, including Secaucus NJ Mayor Michael Gonelli, met with NJ Representative Steve Rothman's legislative assistant on environmental and animal welfare concerns, Catherine Collentine, and and Kalina Bakalov, Rothman's legislative assistant on trade. From prior contacts we learned that Rothman intended to vote against the Panama and Colombia FTAs, but intended to vote for the Korea FTA. Thus, we focused our meeting, which was conducted by phone, entirely on Korea.

Adam Weissman of Global Justice for Animals and the Environment introduced himself and opened the call by thanking Rothman's aides for taking the time to meet with TradeJustice activists and then did a roll call of attendees:

  • Michael Gonnelli , the Mayor of Secaucus, NJ
  • Amanda Nesheiwat, the Chair of the Secaucus Environmental Commission
  • Jacob Zychick, chair of the Reform Party of NJ
  • A representative from the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador
  • Ira Stern from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
  • 5 representatives of Korean Americans for Fair Trade and Nodutol for Korean Community Development - Young Choe, Juyeon Rhee, Suk Woo Choe, Jong Chun Lee, and Choongsin Park
  • 2 representatives of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, Coalition to Protect NJ Black Bears, and League of Humane Voters of New Jersey - Angi Metler (director of all three) and Perry Bolkin
  • 2 representatives of the Bergen County Green Party - Joe Pezzillo and Alvin Meyer
  • Almost all of the participants were constituents in Rothman's district.

    Amanda addressed the Korea FTA's Environmental Chapter and how the FTA will allow cars to enter South Korea that fail to meet S. Korea's emissions standards. Read Amanda's Statement.

    Ira spoke on how the FTA will impact jobs and the economy. Read Ira's Statement

    The CISPES representative presented the Pacific Rim case in El Salvador as an example of who the Korea FTA's investor-state rules may undermine public interest laws in both countries. Read his statement.

    Perry related concerns about the FTA from an animal rights perspective and also explained how factory farm expansion under the FTA will contribute to climate change and a possible bird flu pandemic. Read Perry's statement.

    Young explained why Koreans and Korean Americans oppose the FTA. Read Young's Statement

    Juyeon discussed how the intellectual property rules of the trade agreement will limit access to affordable medications in South Korea. Read Juyeon's statement.

    Unfortunately, there wasn't time for all the participants to speak, but Joe submitted a statement to be read by Rothman's aides after the meeting. Read Joe's statement.

    Rothman's assistants asked the activists for the texts of their presentations, which they providing by email along with a packet of additional materials about the Korea-US FTA. The aides pledged to relay the activists' concerns to Rothman and invited them to stay in touch and let Rothman's office how they can be of assistance on a variety of issues. They also mentioned his committee assignments (he's on the Committee on Appropriations and its Subcommittees on Defense and on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs), and said that he has a great deal of power and we should take advantage of that to advance our concerns.

    Adam said that when he spoke to Rothman directly, the Congressman said that he was 99% sure he was voting for the Korea FTA, and that TradeJustice would like to hear his response once he's had a chance to consider the information the activists presented. Rothman's aides encouraged the activists to stay in touch.

    Thanks to everyone who made this meeting a success:

  • Perry for getting Rothman's staff to agree to the meeting and for his presentation.
  • Amanda for presenting and for inviting Mayor Gonelli - the first time we've had an elected official lobby with us! This is hopefully the beginning of a great new relationship between trade justice activists and the elected leaders of the town of Secaucus.
  • Juyeon for preparing a great presentation on IP issues and inviting three elders from the Korean community in Rothman's district, helping us explode the myth that Koreans Americans overwhelmingly support the FTA.
  • Joe for joining us at the last minute and inviting Alvin to the call.
  • Young and Andy for their presentations.
  • Julie O'Connor of Caring Activists Against Fur for bringing her father Perry into this effort and kept the ball rolling every step of the way to make sure the meeting happened.
  • And thanks to everyone else who participated in the call!