Public Citizen News / March-April 2019
By Griet Van Acker
This article appeared in the March/April 2019 edition of Public Citizen News. Download the full edition here.
As the international campaigns director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Melanie Foley is a jack-of-all-trades. Since joining the organization in 2013, she has represented Public Citizen in several international coalitions that strategize and implement public education and policy outreach on various international trade agreements. She works with Public Citizen’s allies in unions, environmental organizations, consumer groups and others around the world to influence trade negotiations so that trade agreements meet progressive demands — and to fight against them when they do not.
A Maryland native turned Washingtonian, Foley obtained her bachelor’s degree in government and politics at the University of Maryland, where she also obtained her master’s degree in public policy. She worked on the global warming solutions campaign on campus and also interned on Capitol Hill. Readers might also recognize Foley as a regular contributor to “Public Citizen News” and writer of Global Trade Watch’s email action alerts.
Q: How was interning on Capitol Hill?
Foley: In college, I interned in then-Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s (D-Md.) Capitol Hill office. It was an incredible and educational experience — but I was particularly inspired by the scrappy public interest advocates who would visit the office to lobby their consumer or environmental cause, and knew that was the path for me.
Q: What was your first job like?
Foley: Working at Appalachian Voices was a great first foray into advocacy. I learned about the destructive form of coal extraction known as “mountaintop removal,” which devastates ecosystems and poisons communities downstream. Fighting to end this practice taught me invaluable skills that I continue to use at Public Citizen.
Q: Which accomplishment at Global Trade Watch are you most proud of?
Foley: Last fall in Vienna, I presented before United Nations delegates at a forum on international investment. I argued that they should use the opportunity of this meeting (where they were discussing small tweaks of Investor-State Dispute Settlement) to step back from the corporate-rigged system altogether. The meeting had been dominated by those seeking to maintain the status quo, but my presentation compelled the South African delegation to deliver a strong intervention echoing my message.
More broadly, what makes me take pride in my job is that in the past five years, I have witnessed firsthand how “trade” has been recognized as a major news story and important political issue. More and more people are realizing the impact that trade deals can have on income inequality, medicine prices and the ability of our government to regulate in our interests — particularly when multinational corporations are given privileged access to negotiations. I can tell that we are making a difference.
Q: What do you do for fun?
Foley: I like to travel and spend time with family and friends. I often go hiking and camping when the weather is nice, or when it isn’t, get too competitive playing board games.