Before arriving at Oventic, I hadn’t realized how much I’d hoped to find answers: answers about the systems of colonization and neoliberalism; about how they operate within me and the work I do; about how to build alternatives to them personally, locally, and in solidarity. While conversations I had delved into all of this, one of the most central answers shared was that of questions, and of the importance of continuing to act with a commitment to reflection. Zapatista communications in no way claim perfection, or a goal of being a token answer to the world’s struggles; instead, they speak to a dedication to learning while doing, to thinking while trying, to walking while asking questions.In preparing to continue our action this fall, we can both reflect on what we’ve done so far and ask new questions of our work – from those focused on the next steps for our fight against the TPP to those that connect our resistance with taking on corporate power and injustice at large. (One recent example of walking with questions comes from our allies at United Students for Fair Trade, who undertook a Movement Connection Project to reflect on their own hopes for building student power as part of larger resistance to unjust trade.)
The resolution declares Berkeley to be a TPP and TAFTA Free Zone where Berkeley will not recognize trade provisions and tribunal rulings related to these agreements. Specifically, it states: “to every extent allowable by law, rules which do not promote the interests of workers, protect the environment, and improve the quality of life in all participating countries and which were negotiated without transparency as well as meaningful congressional and public input, and related tribunals’ rulings, will not be recognized.” The City Council resolution, which follows similar resolutions passed by Dane County WI and Madison WI on the TPP, encourages communities to take “peacefully powerful actions for self-determination such as becoming TPP/TAFTA-Free Zones.”
We already know that so-called “free” trade agreements aren’t free — they hurt jobs and wages and are deeply irresponsible. Indeed, just two past “free” trade deals, NAFTA and China’s addition to the World Trade Organization, resulted in a net loss of almost 135,000 Florida jobs. In addition, when — and if — those workers got another job, their annual wages plummeted an average $13,500. That net loss cost Florida’s economy almost $2 billion in annual wages. The TPP will make things even worse because we’ll be competing with corporations relocating to countries like Vietnam, where the average minimum wage is a meager 56 cents per hour. This agreement will allow foreign corporations to sue the United States through international tribunals over nearly any laws that they allege would cut into their expected future profits. That includes laws designed to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food on our dinner tables.
What do rigged corporate trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Treaty, an international climate agreement to be signed in 2015, have in common? They are both tools being pushed by the power elite to rip away our hopes for democracy and to commodify all things to monetize them for profit. It is this drive by multinational corporations to patent and control even living beings such as plants and animals and to privatize even elements that are essential to life such as water which connects all human beings on the planet. We are in a global battle of the people versus the plutocrats and this battle has a ticking timer called the climate crisis. The global financial elites meet regularly to plan their strategy and tactics. If they can’t push their agenda through the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization, they move to secret massive trade agreements.
As elections get closer, Democratic Party leaders in Congress are getting the message out to inside-the-beltway activists groups that they are unifying to support giving President Obama some form of Fast Track. Recent letters from member of Congress to the President indicate support for trade with particular stipulations, but the overall message is to continue negotiating. Washington advocacy groups believe that they must also show support for Fast Track or they will find themselves without access or influence. Rather than kowtowing to the usual ‘on the table’ threat from the corrupt bi-partisan Congress, the movement needs to tell them that the only thing on the table is a complete transformation from the failed global trade that rigs profits for big business at the expense of the ecology of the planet and the necessities of the people. It is time to declare the TPP, TAFTA and the Services agreements as dead, develop a new approach to trade and begin to renegotiate past trade agreements like NAFTA that are doing ongoing damage to the economy, planet and people.
Bipartisan Letter From 140 Members Of Congress Last week 140 members of Congress signed a letter asking the White House and TPP negotiators to leave out countries that won’t fully open their markets to all U.S. agriculture products. The letter was led by Devin Nunes, R-Calif. and Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the chair and ranking member of the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee. Farm Futures reports that the letter focused on Japan. Japan is demanding exemptions that allow the country to continue tariffs on what they call “sensitive” products. These include pork, beef, dairy, sugar, wheat, barley and rice. Reuters reports that the letter also asked that Canada be removed from TPP negotiations.
Why is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) taking so long to conclude? It has already missed three deadlines, the latest being October 2013. President Barack Obama’s recent Asia visit did not produce the widely anticipated push towards the finish line. And what will the TPP will look like when finally concluded? Despite WikiLeaks’ best efforts, the negotiations are walled by secrecy. Will the TPP be the comprehensive twenty-first century agreement proponents tout? Or will it wallow as a watered-down compromise, riddled with exemptions, as detractors predict? A useful starting point in explaining the delay is to look at the countries involved. In 2005, four small open economies — New Zealand, Chile, Brunei and Singapore — began talking about a free trade agreement. It began to grab headlines when the US embraced the TPP in 2009 as part of its ‘pivot to Asia’. Four other nations joined discussions soon after — Australia, Peru, Vietnam and Malaysia — followed by Canada, Mexico and Japan. These 12 countries are a highly diverse group by any measure. First, unlike other plurilateral cooperation agreements, the TPP is widely dispersed geographically. There is nothing regional about it, with members from four of the world’s seven continents. And it is just as economically diverse. Australia’s per capita income is about 40 times that of Vietnam. The US economy is around 1000 times the size of Brunei. All this diversity suggests finding common ground when negotiating would not be easy.
With paranoia over NSA surveillance reaching a fever pitch, foreign governments are making a reasonable plea: bring our data home. But the Americans are doing their best to ensure that the world’s Internet data stays on U.S. soil, well within the reach of their spies. To do so, American negotiators are leveraging trade deals with much of the developed world, inserting language to ensure “cross-border data flows”—a euphemism that actually means they want to inhibit foreign governments from keeping data hosted domestically. The trade deals they’re influencing—the Trans-Atlantic Partnership (TPP), the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—are all so secretive that nobody but the governments themselves are privy to the details. But thanks to the Australians and Wikileaks, both of whom have leaked details on TPP, we have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the latest Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade agreement that will act as a sort of NAFTA for Asia-Pacific region nations. America is, essentially, the world’s data server. Since the dawn of the internet itself, every database of import has been hosted in the grand US of A. But now, foreign governments are starting to see the benefit of patriating their citizens’ private information.
For over two years now, we’ve been pushing back against the secretive and extreme Trans-Pacific Partnership, specifically the provisions around intellectual property, which would censor the Internet and require your Internet service provider to make serious violations of your privacy rights. Those behind this deal – the 12 negotiating countries, and the industry lobbyists who get privileged access to the negotiations – never make it easy for civil society groups to participate in the negotiating rounds. This time really was a new low, however, as at the last minute the location of the talks changed from Vancouver to Ottawa – 3,500 kilometres away. Since we’d already promised the over 19,000 people who submitted comments using our Internet Voice tool that we would share their concerns with the TPP decision-makers, I made the trip to Ottawa. I’m taking this opportunity to tell you a little bit about what that was like – to take you under-the-hood of how it feels to challenge huge government and corporate bureaucracies in this way, by bringing public perspectives into what should be a democratic process.
Today, EFF and its partners in the global Our Fair Deal coalition join together with an even more diverse international network of creators, innovators, start-ups, educators, libraries, archives and users to release two new open letters to negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP, although characterized as a free trade agreement, is actually far broader in its intended scope. Amongst many changes to which it could require the twelve negotiating countries to agree are a slate of increased rights and privileges for copyright rights holders. With no official means of participating in the negotiations, the global community of users and innovators who will be affected by these proposed changes have been limited to expressing their concerns through open letters to their political representatives and to the officials negotiating the agreement.
Protesters gathered outside the Delta Hotel in Ottawa Thursday morning where trade talks are underway among Trans-Pacific Partnership members. Protesters held signs that said, “secret deal being negotiated here” and “stop the TPP,” while the Raging Grannies, an Ottawa-based satirical singing group, performed outside the hotel. Canada is one of 12 countries involved in the talks, with meetings held behind closed doors. The Citizen reported Monday it was believed at least some of the talks were being held at the John G. Diefenbaker Building, where the government’s international trade offices are located. The Council of Canadians told the Citizen it believes there is too much secrecy around the talks, which were initially planned for Vancouver but moved to Ottawa at the last minute. Negotiators are meeting to discuss agreements on intellectual property, investment, state-owned enterprises and rules of origin.
In keeping with the theme “May the 4th be with you”, Occupy Venice aka the Rebel Alliance joined with members of Vets for Peace, the Topanga Peace Alliance and other activist groups as a part of the 4th of July Parade down Main St in Santa Monica. Over 50 participants led the call to overturn the Empire and fight the TPP, Corporate Personhood, and a new war in Iraq. “Stop Wars” banners and street theater filled the parade as OV acted out lightsaber duels with stormtroopers and against the evil corporate influence of money in politics. The crowd of 5,000 joined in on chants of “The people united will never be defeated!” and cheered along with the march. The Rebel Alliance continued their march down the Venice boardwalk and rallied throughout the rest of the day, welcoming the public and tourists to take part.
What could make the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership process even less legit? Moving it at the last minute, under cover of darkness, from Vancouver to Ottawa, in order to avoid critics of the treaty and how it is being negotiated. The TPP is a secretive treaty that allows corporations to sue governments that enact environmental, health and governmental regulations that interfere with their profits. It also calls for vastly expanded Internet spying and censorship in the name of protecting copyright. Only trade negotiators and corporate lobbyists are allowed to see the drafts of the agreement (though plenty of these drafts have leaked) — often times, members of Congress and Parliament are denied access to them, even though the agreement will set out legal obligations that these elected officials will be expected to meet. And while negotiators and interested civil society groups now know (unless it changes again) that the talks will be indeed be held in Ottawa, no other details have been revealed. Nobody — not even negotiators coming to Canada next week for the talks — have been told the location. Specific information about when negotiations on specific chapters will take place are being kept similarly under wraps.
NAFTA promoters in the ’90s promised increased U.S. exports and jobs, with shrinking trade deficits. Senior Fellows of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), projected a NAFTA-induced trade surplus with Mexico, in turn, creating 170,000 new U.S. jobs by 1995. Within two years of NAFTA’s passage, PIIE prognosticators readjusted their projection of new NAFTA-created jobs downward to “zero.” The same group, created by billionaire corporate cheerleader Pete Peterson, is again forecasting increased exports and jobs if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is passed. Referencing 19 serious pre-NAFTA economic studies projecting zero net job loss if NAFTA were to pass, President Bill Clinton estimated the creation of 200,000 U.S. jobs within two years, and 1 million within five years, based on a projected export boom to Mexico. Twenty years after Clinton signed NAFTA into law, Global Trade Watch reports a 450 percent increase in the U.S. trade deficit, resulting in the export of almost one million jobs, and downward pressure on wages. In fact, the average annual U.S. agricultural trade deficit with Mexico and Canada ballooned to almost three times the pre-NAFTA level, to $975 million within two decades of NAFTA’s passage, eliminating an estimated one million net U.S. jobs by 2004, reports the Economic Policy Institute.