World leaders, protesters on Maui for TPP summit

Text Alex Kekauoha

Foreign dignitaries gather this week on Maui to continue and—they hope—conclude negotiating the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Representatives from twelve pacific-rim nations will meet at the Westin Resort and Spa in Kaanapali. The importance of the summit cannot be overstated: the terms of what will be the largest trade agreement in history will have enormous social and economic ramifications for millions of people. Despite its gravity, little is known about these meetings and even local officials don’t have details about the event.

“The mayor hasn’t been invited or informed of any schedule,” said Rod Antone, communications director for Maui mayor Alan Arakawa. “As far as I know they’ll have their meetings and leave.” The mayor’s office has been receiving calls from reporters inquiring about the event, but Antone said he knew little about it. He said that organizers of the TPP meetings have not been in touch with local officials to fill them in on any additional measures, safety precautions, plans or schedules for the meetings or its high-profile participants.

Lawmakers hope this will be the final meeting of nations to negotiate the terms of the TPP agreement. In March, ministerial meetings were held on the Big Island and were met with opposition from protesters. While negotiations were underway inside the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort, protesters gathered outside to condemn numerous provisions of the TPP, particularly rules governing the labeling of foods and seeds that undergo genetic modification. There were no reported arrests or major disturbances during the last TPP summit in Hawaii.

This time around, protest organizers are, once again, planning to attend this week’s meetings. Members and supporters of the group Popular Resistance plan to meet on Maui as leaders and negotiators arrive to discuss the TPP. The group’s website says, “The protests will educate and unite people on Hawaii against corporate imperial ‘trade’ deals that will threaten indigenous sovereignty on the island, increase the use of GMO crops, diminish worker rights, and reward multinationals that pollute the environment on the islands and around the world.”

Despite the protester’s intentions of remaining peaceful, it seems odd that local officials aren’t involved in any way with the TPP meetings. It’s rare that this many global leaders, dignitaries, and politicians gather (much less in such a remote area) to discuss such important matters as global trade. But when asked about increased security, redirected traffic, road closures, increased policing due to protests, etc., Mayor Arakawa’s office was unfazed. The Maui police department is aware these meetings are taking place but had no public announcements to make on the matter.

TPP negotiators will hold talks on Friday, July 24th though Monday, July 27th. Trade ministers will meet on Tuesday, July 28th and conclude talks on Friday the 31st.


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