Opponents to Trans-Pacific Partnership use concerts, teach-ins to show downside of deal

An anti-TPP march in Philadelphia, July 2016. (Credit: Becker1999/Flickr)

Opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership continue to have concerns that not enough people are paying attention to a trade deal they think will be bad for workers, the environment and the global poor.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, aims to deepen economic ties among 12 nations – the U.S., Japan, Malaysia and Canada among them – by eliminating barriers to trade to boost growth. The agreement could create a new single economic market, somewhat like that of the EU.

In an effort to educate the public on the drawbacks of the TPP, Friends of the Earth (FOE), a global network of environmental organizations, has organized a rock concert tonight in Seattle as part of a running series of rock concerts and teach-ins.

In a recent news release on the event, FOE’s Director of Economic Policy Douglas Norlen said “a vote for the TPP is a vote for climate destruction,” and that the TPP would escalate global warming “by increasing U.S. coal, oil and gas exports to the world” and “allow climate polluters to turn to secretive international tribunals where they can sue governments for billions.”

The event’s other organizer, FOE’s Senior Trade Analyst Bill Waren, spoke to Humanosphere about the concerns over the deal.

“In terms of poverty and international development, there are very serious concerns,” said Waren, explaining that the TPP would increase the volatility of agricultural markets and hand control of the market to larger corporations. Other opponents stress that intellectual property protection may result in inflated prices for drugs and copyrighted material in countries where piracy is common. For some developing countries, these price surges may be in areas where the poor and near-poor are already at risk of falling further behind.

Waren emphasized the importance of spreading awareness of these issues to the public in the U.S., particularly in the state of Washington.

“Washington state is something of a battleground for where this might be decided,” said Waren. “The overwhelming majority of Democrats in the House are opposed to the TPP, but we see the Washington state Democratic House members about evenly split.”

The pro-TPP campaign has powerful allies in the state with Boeing and a number of other large Washington-based corporations favoring the agreement. What the FOE and other TPP opponents hope to communicate to Washington politicians is that the TPP is very unpopular among a whole range of their constituents.

One challenge is that, according to FOE, the public is largely unaware of what the TPP even is.

“We’re starting to get some publicity [on the TPP]with the presidential campaign now … but it’s only been recently that we’ve gotten any coverage at all by the mainstream media in the United States, let alone the major networks,” said Waren.

The TPP has indeed enjoyed more of the spotlight throughout this election. The deal is vehemently opposed by both presidential candidates – although, Hillary Clinton originally supported the deal before reversing her position during the primary season, saying the agreement still needs revisions.

For his part, President Obama has not wavered in his support of the TPP, which is considered key to his administration’s strategy in countering China in the Asia-Pacific region. And according to recent polls, it seems support for the agreement is growing, as voters recognize the long-term benefits of net cost reductions and global economic efficiency.

The agreement still needs to be ratified by Congress, which some speculate might happen during the lame-duck session of Congress following the November election.

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Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a Madrid-based reporter for Humanosphere, covering gender equality, indigenous rights and poverty in Latin America and worldwide. Find her on Twitter at @lisanikolau, email lisa.nikolau@humanosphere.org or see her latest work at www.lisanikolau.com