Above photo: By John Harvey.
This week 63 organizations co-sponsored protests against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Washington, DC focusing on the US Trade Representative, White House, Chamber of Commerce, K Street lobbyists, embassies and Congress. Traffic was shut down, the US Trade Reps’ offices were blockaded and key members of Congress were confronted.
Worse Than We Expected, TPP Grows Opposition
Now that the TPP is public, opposition is rising as we see the TPP is actually worse than expected. In an interview with Jaisal Noor of The Real News, Margaret Flowers explains how the TPP was a victory for the corporations on issue after issue, including reducing wages and worker rights, undermining environmental protection, making healthcare more expensive, undermining Internet freedom and more. Kevin Zeese in a conversation with Chris Hedges talks about how the TPP is the greatest corporate power grab in US history and how people have to rise up to stop the race to the bottom that will affect every aspect of our lives.
A few days after the text was released, we highlighted ten shocking realities of the TPP. The final text showed that critics were right about what it would contain. In fact, the TPP is a step backward on many important issues.
Since then, more analysis has been conducteded. We highlight two updates here. Stan Sorscher of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition shows how the TPP supplants Congress in its ongoing “legislation” on trade. He writes:
“The recently released text establishes roughly 20 committees to manage trade in agriculture, government procurement, the Internet, food safety, financial regulation, and other topics covered in the deal. Some committees have narrow authority, but others have open-ended scope, such as the Committee on Trade in Goods which will ‘…undertak[e] any additional work that the Commission may assign to it.’”
These commissions take on a judicial role, interpreting the provisions of the TPP, and a legislative role, writing new trade rules that we must live under. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) describes this as a “living” document that will change, not by legislators, who in fact cannot change it, but by trade negotiators, writing:
“The predictable and surely desired result of the TPP is to put greater distance between the governed and those who govern. It puts those who make the rules out of reach of those who live under them, empowering unelected regulators who cannot be recalled or voted out of office. In turn, it diminishes the power of the people’s bulwark: their constitutionally-formed Congress.”
On Corrente, they cover an under-reported aspect of the TPP’s impact on jobs. Most people focus on outsourcing jobs to countries where wages are lower so transnational corporations can reduce wages. But, there is a second aspect – insourcing. They predict the TPP will drive wages in the US into collapse and replace illegal immigration with legal immigration because of insourcing, writing:
“If TPP is made law, there will be no LEGAL restriction (that will survive an investor dispute challenge, anyway) on Mexican immigration related to work… So roughly 83% of the current illegal immigration related to job seeking will rapidly become legal … wage rates in the US will begin a precipitous collapse . . . At the same time this is happening, we can also expect a massive increase in LEGAL immigration from low wage TPP countries Malaysia and Vietnam. (Combined population of 120 million people.) … I’ll guess you could easily get 5% of the population of Malaysia (25 cents/hour typical) and Vietnam (60 cents per hour typical) to take American jobs, in the US, at 50 cents to the dollar. That will provide a powerful lever for the rest of the US work force to just crumble in the face of demands for cutting wages by, say, 30%.”
These are just some examples of why the TPP is even worse than we expected.
DC Protests Shut Down Streets and Buildings in Washington, DC
Beginning on November 14, activists from as far away as Washington, California, Maine and Florida came to Washington, DC to protest the TPP.
As Telesur wrote, “Washington, D.C. joined Manila and ten other cities in protests against the Pacific trade agreement that is expected to affect all aspects of ordinary life. Crowds shut down traffic in Washington, D.C. on Monday and occupied various offices that are implicated in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which will be voted on soon.” Some of the most aggressive protests were in the Philippines at the APEC summit.
The first day was an art build to create spectacle action pieces that would tell the story of why the TPP should never become law. The second day focused on preparation, planning and education. Then we hit the streets on Monday morning.
TPP Is Betrayal
Monday began at Farragut Square next to K Street. We marched down 17th Street blocking two lanes of traffic to the US Trade Representative’s building with massive props and banners along with an alpaca brought by a family farmer. John Zangas of DC Media Group wrote: “Protesters restricted access to the building as the business day began, using banners as blockades, and obstructed traffic in the area.” The theme of the day was “Betrayal” because TPP betrays – safe food, access to healthcare, family farming, a healthy environment and much more.
Protesters covered the front of the building with massive banners that described the TPP as a global corporate coup. Speakers included Zahara Heckcher, a mother and advanced cancer patient who would not be able to afford the medications she needs if the TPP becomes law; Jim Goodman of Family Farm Defenders, an organic dairy farmer from Wisconsin who described how the TPP would destroy family farms, prevent GMO labeling and reduce food safety; Alison Case, a medical student and representative of the American Medical Student Association, who described how TPP would increase the cost of medicine and undermine healthcare; and Carol Gay, President of the New Jersey State Industrial Union Council, who described how the TPP would drive a race to the bottom in wages and weaken worker rights.
The protesters held the space, blocking two lanes of traffic, for three hours. They toilet-papered trees around the USTR with toilet paper that had six reasons to Stop the TPP printed on it. T’Ping became a regular feature at all the protests and was emphasized in the final event in Congress. On the march back to the park, demonstrators stopped at the White House to protest Obama’s role in the TPP and his betrayal of the American people and the planet.
March on the Corporate Lobbyists
That evening focused on the transnational corporations and their lobbyists who have been helping to write this corporate power grab and lobbying Congress to ratify it. The protest began at the US Chamber of Commerce, the corporate bully of Washington, DC. The rally, moderated by Margaret Flowers, included speakers Chuck Zlatkin of the American Postal Workers Union, Eugene Puryear of the DC Black Lives Matter movement, Zahara Heckscher, a cancer patient, Herman Wainggai from Free West Papua, Palmer Legare of the Guatemala Solidarity Project, a representative from Colombian activist Oscar Gutierrez, Maira Sutton of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Meghan Sali of Open Media.
A surprise guest, filmmaker Michael Moore wearing an AFL-CIO cap, showed up. John Zangas reports “Moore was attending an event just around the corner and heard the commotion at the Chamber of Commerce. He appeared delighted there was a protest against the trade agreement. ‘Oh, this is cool!’ he said.” Moore emphasized the impacts of previous trade agreements like NAFTA on his hometown of Flint and Detroit. He urged people “keep this fight going” because “we’re on the right side of what is good and moral.”
The rush hour protest was carried out as it became dark in DC. It featured various lighting including torches that looked like lit-up toilet paper rolls saying “Flush the TPP”, light projections on buildings with statements like “TPP = Corporate Coup,” and “Pain for the Many, Profit for the Few” and LED letter boards.
As Telesur wrote “About a thousand protesters brought drums, banners and even an alpaca as they marched from the Chamber of Commerce to the offices of Morgan Stanley, Monsanto and the Reagan International Trade Center, each of which they occupied for several minutes.”
An RT video showed the protest getting by a security guard and disrupting the offices of Morgan Stanley, an investment firm that has spent $10 million lobbying for the TPP. The video goes on to show the protest marching down K street, known for its corporate lobbyists. Protesters stopped to block major intersections, like 17 St and Connecticut Ave, NW, where rush hour is most intense. They drew chalk messages opposing the TPP on the asphalt.
The marchers went through downtown DC, stopping at the the Koch Brothers’ DC office as well as the Monsanto building. Monsanto will benefit from the TPP which will block laws against GMO foods and prevent labeling of GMO foods. The marchers continued down 14 Street, another major rush hour thoroughfare, blocking two to three lanes of traffic and ending at the Reagan International Trade Center.
The World Is Rising Protest on Embassy Row
On Tuesday, the focus moved from domestic to international in solidarity with people protesting the Asian Pacific Economic Coordination (APEC) meetings in Manila, Philippines.
The Embassy Row “World Is Rising” march (see article for photos and videos) was colorful and beautiful. Marchers carried a massive globe surrounded by tall banners which read “Stop the TPP” in the languages of TPP countries. A giant Monopoly man puppet held the flags of TPP countries from his fingers to represent that transnational corporations will be the puppeteers of TPP countries, destroying their sovereignty and making them financial colonies. A more than twenty foot wide banner that read “TPP = Betrayal” brought up the rear. Once again multiple lanes of traffic were stopped.
– At Vietnam pennies were passed to each person to show how Vietnamese workers earn pennies per hour, e.g. Vietnamese garment workers make 53 cents an hour on average and to emphasize that workers must unite to demand fair wages and safe working conditions.
– At the Embassy of the Philippines, where the government banned unpermitted protests, marchers showed solidarity with Filipino protesters. A group of students had burned the APEC logo and portraits of Presidents Aquino and Obama in Manila. In solidarity, the marchers burned a ‘text of the TPP’ in front of the Philippines Embassy.
– At the Embassy of Peru marchers counted to 57 to remember the environmental activists who had been killed.
The final stop was the Japanese Embassy which deserves special attention because it is the second largest TPP economy. Japan is also central to the military pivot to Asia that is surrounding China and building a massive US military base on Okinawa. Japan is behaving like a US colony with Prime Minister Abe serving as a puppet to the US.
Japan is putting key parts of its economy at risk. It has one of the best healthcare systems in the world which, as with other countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada, will be undermined. US insurance companies will be allowed to come into the country and focus on the profitable sectors of healthcare, where people pay premiums but do not use services. This will undermine the pooling of services which makes single payer possible as the expensive people who need healthcare will be left out. They will also be subjected to much more costly prescription drugs further undermining the single payer system. Essentially, these successful systems will be forced to transform to the expensive and inefficient US system dominated by insurance companies and profit.
As has been seen in other countries with US trade agreements, e.g. Mexico and South Korea, Japanese agriculture will be undermined. Japanese rice farming is organized by co-operatives on small plots. It will be destroyed not only by US rice imports but also by foreign investment and corporate land ownership leading to larger plots and mechanization. Small farms will be unable to compete with agribusiness.
While the Secret Service, which protects embassies, was on the way, three activists sat down in front of the embassy, one of them chained his neck to the door. Those who risked arrest included Jim Goodman of Family Farm Defenders saying he was acting in solidarity with rice farmers; Dr. Margaret Flowers, a leading advocate for single payer healthcare, risked arrest to support the Japanese health system; and, former Baltimore steel worker, Richard Ochs, in the end the only one arrested, chained himself to the Japanese Embassy by attaching a bicycle lock to his neck, doing so because he knows that corporate trade agreements undermine the economy at home and abroad.
Capitol Hill: Building a Movement to Flush the TPP
In the final action on Wednesday, marchers “lobbied” Congress, not in the traditional way. They marched to Capitol Hill carrying Flush The TPP torches and then went into the capitol buildings to deliver a petition and rolls of Stop the TPP toilet paper. When they attempted to enter the building security stopped them when one officer claimed that the petitions could not be delivered. The other officer would have allowed them because of the constitutional right to freedom of speech and to petition the government. A higher authority had to be called and the sergeant agreed with the second guard allowingthe petitions into the building.
They visited several offices including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the soon-to-be Democratic Leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. At each office they delivered a roll of Stop the TPP toilet paper and made a statement in a ‘mic-check’ explaining why the TPP should not be ratified. A video was made of the events on Capitol Hill – watch to the grand conclusion!
Mass Mobilization Can Stop the TPP
We are going to need to use all of our tools to stop the TPP: threaten those who are likely supporters, conduct mass email campaigns and petitions, use traditional lobbying and organizing in key congressional districts as well as mass mobilizations in the street.
The Hill newspaper reports that Obama’s trade deal is in serious trouble. They point to both Sen. Orin Hatch and Rep. Paul Ryan, two key Republicans, expressing doubts about the deal.
We think that is little optimistic. We need to put all we have into stopping this agreement because if we fail it will be a global corporate coup that makes everything we want to accomplish more difficult.
The TPP is scheduled to be signed by the leaders of the TPP nations in New Zealand on February 4. Start making your plans now to protest that. Take the pledge at Flush the TPP to stay informed. The TPP will affect all that we hold dear. Mobilize now to say “No!”