Washington Fair Trade Coalition

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Activists beam “Stop Trans-Pacific Partnership” message into rush hour traffic | 

"Stop TPP" over Interstate 5

On Tuesday evening, a group of activists brightened up an otherwise cold and gray evening for Seattle commuters. Holding constellations of light bulbs, they trudged onto a freeway overpass and aligned themselves, then hoisted beaming placards onto the railing. I ducked through a hole in a fence and made my way down to the side of the road. “Stop TPP,” the light projection read. The action was carried out by the Washington Fair Trade Coalition and the Backbone Campaign.

What’s the TPP? It stands for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it’s been described as “NAFTA on steroids” – a secretly negotiated free trade agreement between some 12 countries that activists argue will benefit corporations more than people.

Thanks to WikiLeaks, though, today the world is getting a look at the agreement itself. And it’s not promising:

The Sydney Morning Herald received an early look at the leaked draft, and notes that it focuses on the United States’ federal and corporate interests, while largely ignoring the rights and interests of consumers. “One could see the TPP as a Christmas wish-list for major corporations, and the copyright parts of the text support such a view,” Matthew Rimmer, an expert in intellectual property law, tells the Herald. “Hollywood, the music industry, big IT companies such as Microsoft and the pharmaceutical sector would all be very happy with this”…WikiLeaks says that TPP would effectively instate many of the surveillance and law enforcement regulations proposed in the highly controversial SOPA and ACTA laws.

The WikiLeaks disclosure will spark a greater debate about the TPP. But yesterday, one group of drivers already seemed to be in the know. Most of the honks of support – really loud ones, at that – came from truckers driving big semis. Light projections of this sort were carried out all across the country. This week might just mark a turning point in the battle against the accord.

Seattle activists seek to make TPP as well-known – and infamous – as WTO | 

It’s usually not a good idea to have two acronyms in a headline, or anywhere near each other.

Bear with me.

Wikimedia

WTO protests in Seattle November 30 1999

Boring acronyms — like WTO — sometimes represent and often disguise hugely political and complex issues of great importance.

Most of us know that jargon and acronyms are standard tools used by politicians, bureaucrats and corporations to obfuscate, discourage public scrutiny or cause your brain to seize up.

Here’s a new one of those potential brain-freezers: TPP, aka the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

It’s about almost everything and anything that can be bought or sold. What it will cost, where it will be made, who benefits. As one writer in Slate noted, it’s being done mostly in secret.

So the activist community, especially some of the old Seattle WTO protest gang, is now gearing up to ‘raise awareness’ of the TPP.

You probably haven’t heard of the TPP and would prefer not to hear more. But if you want to know why your prescription drugs could cost more, what a global “corporate tribunal” will be or at least sound smart and cool within the activist set, read on ….

Wordle

WTO used to be obscure and wonky, too. Before 1999, few in the public were aware of WTO, the World Trade Organization, an international organization that sets (or tries to set) the rules for international commerce.

After the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle, which spawned massive street protests, many if not most people today (certainly in Seattle) have at least some idea of what the organization does and why it can be controversial.

The Battle in Seattle was billed, simplistically, as the culmination of the American ‘anti-globalization’ movement. It sounds stupid today to be anti-global. The protests weren’t really against globalization, I would argue, so much as they were for things like fair trade, environmental protection, corporate transparency, human and worker rights and so on.

A big point of the protests was about the poor world’s outrage at exploitative trade practices mostly benefiting the wealthy nations.

Lori Wallach of Public Citizen

“The way to think of TPP is that it’s WTO on crack,” said Lori Wallach, an activist with Public Citizen. Wallach was in Seattle Monday night to speak at a gathering of global do-gooders, fair-traders and WTO protest veterans gathered at, of all places, the Queen Anne office of an investment management firm.

At first glance, the gathering at Newground Social Investment might prompt some snide remark about wine & cheese Seattle liberals. They did have a lot of wine and cheese and, presumably, liberals. Continue reading