“If you pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we will not obey,” defiant activists’ message to Washington

Among their actions, activists are organizing municipalities to pass TPP-Free Zone laws

No 904­­ Posted by fw, November 6, 2013

“We are in a time of transformational change. The opportunity is here to reverse the destruction wrought by rigged corporate trade agreements and to demand trade that is fair and promotes sustainable practices. There is no reason trade cannot improve the lives of workers and people around the world, as well as protect the planet from the rapacious destruction of corporate greed. We need to insist that people and the planet come before profits. It is up to us to make this transformation a reality. To do so we must build a broad-based, movement of movements that sends a clear message to Washington, DC: ‘If you pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we will not obey.’”Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

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Trans-Pacific Partnership: “We Will Not Obey”; Building a Global Resistance Movement by Kevin Zeese and Margaret FlowersTruthout , November 6, 2013

Message to Washington — “If you pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we will not obey.”

We are in a time of transformational change. The opportunity is here to reverse the destruction wrought by rigged corporate trade agreements and to demand trade that is fair and promotes sustainable practices. There is no reason trade cannot improve the lives of workers and people around the world, as well as protect the planet from the rapacious destruction of corporate greed. We need to insist that people and the planet come before profits.

It is up to us to make this transformation a reality. To do so we must build a broad-based, movement of movements that sends a clear message to Washington, DC: “If you pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we will not obey.”

Obama wants secret TPP deal completed by end of this year

The Obama administration has made it a priority to have the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) completed by the end of the year. The TPP is the largest trade agreement negotiated since the World Trade Organization (WTO). It covers 12 countries so far and includes provisions that reach beyond issues of trade. The full contents of the TPP are unknown because it has been negotiated with unprecedented secrecy; however, it is clear from what has been revealed that the TPP gives transnational corporations the power to alter our laws down to the local level to enhance and protect their profits.

Grassroots pressure is on Congress to not give Obama Fast Track negotiating authority

To pass the TPP, Obama is seeking Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority from Congress, which would give the president the ability to negotiate and sign the agreement before it is presented to Congress for a limited debate and an up-or-down vote without amendments. Fast Track, which has been used to pass other undesirable trade deals like the WTO and NAFTA, would prohibit a transparent and democratic process. Without Fast Track, it would be more difficult to pass the TPP.

At present, with the help of grass-roots pressure, momentum is growing in Congress to stop Fast Track. Many elected Republicans and Democrats are signing on to letters stating that they refuse to give up their constitutional responsibility to regulate trade between nations. However, as corporate lobbyists descend on Congress, that momentum could change.

Activists busy organizing communities to pass TPP-Free Zone laws, and strengthening ties with global community

To ensure that Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership do not become law, we need to continue to build grass-roots pressure. In addition to contacting Congress, activists are organizing to pass local laws saying their community will not obey the TPP because it is being passed in secrecy, without their consent and taking away their ability to legislate for the benefit of their community. And activists are strengthening their ties with the global community by coordinating efforts to stop the TPP and other toxic agreements such as the WTO and the new Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, known as TAFTA, which started being negotiated in July.

Alliance for Democracy takes leading role in movement to stop TPP and other toxic agreements

Alliance for Democracy member Ruth Caplan, who has been active in movements that stopped previous trade agreements and facilitated the creation of an alternative “General Agreement for the New Economy,” recently told us, “It is time to build a democratic movement of resistance. This starts from the grass roots, in the communities where we live.” She urges opponents of the TPP to work with their local governments – city, town and county – to pass TPP-Free Zone laws.

As Caplan emphasizes, “This is not, ‘Please, Congress, do the right thing,’ but language of resistance. We need to say, ‘If you create this secretly negotiated corporate trade agreement and it is a rubber-stamped by Congress, we will not obey.’ “

The Alliance for Democracy web site has information to help activists work with local elected officials to do this. In addition to providing model municipal laws that can be edited to fit the needs of the community, they provide the best arguments for making the case to local officials.

Dane County and Madison, WI and Berkeley, CA passed anti-TPP resolutions

Dane County and the city of Madison, Wisconsin, recently passed resolutions opposing the TPP; and Berkeley, California, is in the process of considering one. David Newby of the Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition, who was a key player in passing the Wisconsin resolutions, said:

“What was most powerful with local officials was the realization that these trade agreements change federal law to conform to the agreement. That would mean the elimination of Buy America or Buy Local in terms of government procurement. … TPP limits the ability to pass ordinances which benefit the people of Dane County or the City of Madison.”

TPP would undermine local laws that protect food sovereignty, health care, Internet freedom, worker rights, the environment, human rights and more

Caplan points out that more specifically the TPP would undermine local laws such as those that protect food safety, worker rights and the environment.

Under TPP rules, corporations could sue governments if laws interfered with their profits

In addition to requiring that laws conform to provisions within the TPP, corporations would be allowed to sue governments in the trade tribunal if laws interfere with their profits. Governments could not represent their interests before the tribunal or appeal adverse decisions. This would be a tremendous loss of sovereignty.

In TPP-Free Zones, local ordinances would take precedence over secretly negotiated trade deals

The TPP-Free Zone would say to Obama and Congress that communities will not allow secretly negotiated trade deals to undermine the ability of local governments to legislate. Caplan explains that just as some communities are challenging the idea that corporations have the constitutional rights of humans, this is an approach of “taking on settled law. It is taking on what these corporations think they have already won.”

The campaign to pass TPP-Free Zone laws serves other purposes as well. It is an opportunity to reach out to local advocacy groups and educate them about the TPP. And it provides a way to break through the media blackout of the TPP by approaching local media.

Anti-TPP movement learning from tactics used successfully in 1990’s campaign against transnational corporate deal

A similar campaign that included resolutions in the US, Canada, Australia, Asia and Europe was a key ingredient in stopping the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) in the mid-1990s. When the draft MAI was released in 1997, broad opposition that included labor, environmental, human rights and other civil society groups developed quickly. And by October 1998, the MAI was dead. The overall approach was called the “Dracula Strategy,” i.e. that exposing the agreement to the light of day would kill it. Many of the same arguments being made against the TPP were also made against the MAI.

Caplan describes the defeat of the MAI as the first global movement against corporate trade deals and with success “the movement felt its power. It taught that active citizens working together can overcome transnational corporate power and defeat them.” It helped to build the momentum to stall the WTO in the Seattle protests of 1999. Arthur Stamoulis of Citizens Trade Campaign, who has been working against corporate trade agreements since the 1999 Seattle protests, reminds us that past trade agreements have been stopped by a “movement of movements.” And that is what is happening now with the TPP because it affects so many different issues: food sovereignty, health care, Internet freedom, labor, the environment, human rights and more.

Key to success of a movement of movements – Groups must be absolutely united in their opposition

For the movement of movements to be successful in stopping rigged corporate trade agreements, the groups that are working together must be united in their opposition. If some members of the movement seek compromise to protect only their own interests, the movement of movements is weakened.

It would be disastrous if some group decided to support the TPP if it contains language to protect its constituency. For example, if labor seeks language that allows workers to organize unions or that protects workers in other ways, this approach would be short-sighted because such language has been included in past agreements and is not enforceable. And there may be other aspects of the agreement that could cause harm. For instance, even with the right to organize, if the agreement further deregulates banks, as the TPP does, this could lead to another economic crisis, which would cause greater unemployment and financial hardship for workers.

Language within TPP is designed to maximize corporate interests. And tribunal process excludes governments and citizens

Similarly, the international trade tribunal makes language to protect the environment, workers or consumers moot. These tribunals are rigged for the corporations. Past cases in similar tribunals have cost tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars. Imagine what would happen if an oil and gas corporation sues a community that bans fracking or pipelines for millions of dollars. Rather than risk this expense, governments may feel forced to repeal their laws.

The trade tribunal will rely on corporate lawyers on temporary leave from their jobs to serve as judges, i.e. the corporate lawyer will serve on the tribunal, make a ruling and return to the corporation. This creates a kangaroo court system that favors transnational corporations. Representatives from the government and civil society will not have any standing to participate in this litigation. And there is no mechanism for appeal. Under a system like this, language in the TPP that sounds good will in fact be rhetoric that is unenforceable.

And we can expect that language within the TPP already has been designed to maximize corporate interests. Anyone who has negotiated a contract or detailed legislation knows that a few words can change the entire meaning of a law or contract. For the past three and a half years, the TPP has been negotiated with the assistance of more than 600 representatives of transnational corporations or their trade associations. They have had direct access to the text so they could offer specific changes to it.

Any input from civil society groups is strictly controlled so as to give illusion of participation

On the other hand, civil society groups have been largely excluded from the process, being permitted to speak at meetings, but not to amend the text. Their involvement has been controlled to give the illusion of participation so that the office of the US trade representative can say that the process was inclusive while, in fact, civil society has had no impact on the agreement.

The TPP creates a real dilemma for some groups because it is being pushed by a Democratic administration and large labor and environmental groups and other advocacy groups closely allied with the Democratic Party. In the past, some of these groups have provided cover to pass laws that favor corporate interests in return for some sort of concession. This allows terrible laws to pass, and only later do these groups find out that the bone they have been thrown has no meat on it.

Colombia Free Trade Agreement promised protection for workers but conditions have since worsened

This happened with the recent Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Language was added to protect workers, but conditions for workers actually have deteriorated. Hundreds of thousands of workers and small farmers are protesting because their livelihoods are being destroyed by so-called free trade.

Civil society groups must stand in solidarity to stop TPP

There is no need to compromise. It is imperative that civil society groups stand in solidarity to protect all of the people. We can stop these trade agreements. At least 14 other corporate trade agreements have not been completed because of widespread public opposition.

Public Citizen’s proposed Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment Act promises a model for reform

And once the TPP is stopped, we must continue to work together for fair and sustainable trade. One model for that is the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act, which also includes renegotiation of the WTO and NAFTA.

Global Day of Action against Toxic Trade called for on December 3, 2013 in Bali, Indonesia

An opportunity is coming up soon to stand in solidarity with people all over the world and simultaneously build momentum to prevent Fast Track from being passed in Congress this year.

On December 3, 2013, the next round of WTO meetings will take place in Bali, Indonesia. That will be followed by a ministerial round of TPP negotiations in Singapore, on December 7. The final week in Congress prior to the winter recess starts December 9.

A coalition of more than 90 organizations and social movements in Asia has called for a global day of action against the WTO and other toxic trade agreements on December 3. This coalition writes with a real sense of urgency because its members are experiencing the effects of displacement, loss of livelihoods and loss of lives caused by the current economic system that exploits people and the planet, depletes resources and causes climate change.

Organizations in the United States are joining that call to action and are planning to hold rallies in public places at noon December 3. The emphasis in the United States will be around jobs because the holiday times are difficult for those who are unemployed and underemployed. Our message is that we must stand in solidarity to end the race to the bottom in jobs and wages. As long as there are places where people are allowed to be exploited and transnational corporations are free to move their facilities to places with the cheapest labor and fewest regulations, we are all vulnerable to declining wages and human rights abuses.

The US call to action states, “We will not obey secret deals made by transnational corporations that defy public interests and desires and destroy hard-won protections of people, workers and the environment. We demand the rights of all people to live with dignity, to meet their basic needs and to build a 21st century sustainable green economy.”

Following the day of action, grass-roots activists all across the nation will continue to monitor Congress closely and do what is necessary to keep Congress from passing Fast Track and signing the TPP into law. A Rapid Response Toolkit is being prepared for use in the case that a Fast Track bill passes in committee in Congress and is sent to the floor for a vote. Visit FlushtheTPP.org for more information.

Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD host ClearingtheFOGRadio.org on We Act Radio 1480-AM Washington, DC, and on Economic Democracy Media and on UStream.TV/ItsOurEconomy; co-direct It’s Our Economy; and are organizers of PopularResistance.org. To hear the Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers interview, The Growing Effort to Stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with guests David Newby of the Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition, Ruth Caplan of the Alliance for Democracy and Arthur Stamoulis of Citizens Trade Campaign click here.

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