TPP signing sparks dozens of protests across US over biggest trade pact

Activists shout slogans during a protest against the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and Monsanto Co, the world's largest seed company at Santiago, Chile, January 22, 2016. © Stringer / Reuters
Over 35 protests were organized in US cities to mark opposition to the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a huge international trade deal between 12 Pacific Rim nations representing 40 percent of the global economy.

Protesters with the Stop Fast Track coalition rallied outside the White House in Lafayette Park on Wednesday to expose the consequences of the TPP and encourage people to join the campaign. Protesters held aloft a huge yellow banner that read, “TPP equals Betrayal.”

The Washington, DC protest kicked of two days of protests in 38 other US cities, as well as in seven other countries.

The coalition claims that under the trade agreement, 9,000 corporations could sue the US if laws are passed in the public interest that undermine their profits.

The deal, negotiated between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam, is said to cut trade tariffs, improve access to markets and set common ground on labor and environmental standards, and intellectual property protections. The countries have two years to ratify or reject the pact.

However, the negotiations took place over seven years, in secret, and led to the suspicion that the agreement would largely benefit corporations and their shareholders. People only got an idea of how the extensive trade deal would affect lives when a draft copy was leaked on WikiLeaks and triggered worldwide protests.

In New York, protesters with an allied group called Flush the TPP held an equally large banner outside The New York Times news building on Thursday afternoon, criticizing the newspaper's lack of coverage on the biggest trade deal.

The Stop Fast Track coalition claims the TPP is a threat to jobs that will both outsource them to countries with lower wages and insource foreign corporations that would bring their business to the US along with their employees. Critics also argue the TPP threatens internet freedom and privacy, food safety and healthcare.

“There is widespread opposition to the TPP by groups that advocate for a variety of issues. Relationships are strengthening across borders to oppose TPP because of the negative impacts it will have on people in the United States as well as other countries,” said Margaret Flowers of Popular Resistance, who helped organized the national protests.

Over 30 people turned out for an afternoon rally in Tampa, Florida outside the Bank of America Building, and across the road from Morgan Stanley and Brown and Root, who organizers said were “corporate advisers” that had access to the negotiating text for seven years.

Harriet Heywood, the Florida coordinator for People Demand Action said in a statement that the TPP “will ensure corporate domination over virtually every aspect of our lives, cementing the neoliberal ideology that every aspect of life on earth can be equated to a cost-benefit analysis, to facilitate the fleecing of the 99% and the beautify of the planet, in order that a small number of the global elite can continue to steal the fruits of our labor and planetary resources.”

At an evening rally in Chicago, Illinois, people demanded a fair and sustainable future for “people and the planet.”

And over 10 people for the group TPP Hates Your Freedom protested in Champaign, Illinois.

#Champaign #Illinois says: #FlushTheTPP!!! Why? Because #TPPHatesYourFreedom!!! #F4 #TPPisBetrayal...

Posted by TPP Hates Your Freedom on Thursday, February 4, 2016

The trade pact is likely to lead to a tough legislative fight in Congress in 2016.

“It is…expected to be very close, hanging on relatively few votes,” Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Global Accessible Medicine, told RT. “So far the Obama Administration does not believe that it has the votes to win this fight as people are increasingly learning about the negative consequences of the agreement for workers, for our environment, for the regulations that keep us safe.”

Union groups and political groups delivered petitions to Congress on Wednesday asking lawmakers to say #TPPNoWay. It was signed by over 1 million people through groups like Credo, MoveOn, Sierra Club, PeopleDemandAction, and union organizations.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. The more that people learn about the TPP, the more they are going to oppose it. These deals are really there for big business to try and operate the way they want to operate, free of regulation all around the world,” Maybarduk told RT. “The more that average person understands what is actually in these deals, that they are not trade deals, but really big business giveaways, the more votes we pick up."