North Texans Take On the Trans Pacific Partnership

by Ryan

May 21, 2012

From May 8 to May 18, over 600 corporate lobbyists and dozens of delegates from nine Pacific Rim states gathered in Addison, TX (just north of Dallas) to have another round of discussions regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). Because these discussions have taken place almost completely behind closed doors, and because the actual details of the agreement are only available to delegates and lobbyists with “cleared advisor status,” TPP has flown below the radar of public consciousness.

When it has been mentioned, it’s been cautiously referred to by politicians as a “job creating” trade agreement—not as a typical “free trade” agreement, which it most certainly is. Watchdog NGOs, labor unions, and fair trade advocates, upon receiving leaked versions of the agreement, have called it a “NAFTA of the Pacific” and a “corporate power tool for the 1%.”

Instead of having anything to do with “job creation,” its provisions read like a wish list for capitalists across the world—enhanced patent protections for pharmaceutical companies that would make many generic medications unavailable to the poor, “anti-piracy” measures that would drastically reduce internet freedom, preventative measures against financial regulations put into place to protect people from banker misdeeds, giving corporations the ability to sue signatory nations for creating policies that endanger the profitability of their operations, and so on. Though these talks have been going on for years, and aspects of the deal have yet to been ironed out, the window to oppose the TPP is closing.

For these reasons, hundreds of concerned activists from across North Texas protested the TPP throughout the week and a half of negotiations. From a spirited labor- and occupy-endorsed demonstration on May 12 to creative actions inside the hotel among the delegates and lobbyists (including an action by the Yes Lab), the 1% was not able to shut out the voice of the 99% in Addison.

From the May 12, 2012 demonstration against TPP in Addison, TX. Photo: Samuel Hernandez

Shortly after the May 12 demonstration, Solidarity co-hosted an outdoor “TPP Teach-In” with the International Socialist Organization and Occupy Dallas. Brooke Harper-Patterson, a staff organizer for Public Citizen who spent weeks traveling across the US and Texas educating folks about the agreement, spoke first, giving a succinct and informative account of what TPP meant for working people.

Speaking next was Robert Caldwell, a Solidarity member based in Arlington, TX. Though he joined the panel as a last minute replacement, he provided an insightful narrative of the Global Justice Movement “from 1999 to the 99%,” placing the TPP demonstrations within the context of the movement that emerged in the 1990s only to flounder in the confusion and fear that came along with the 9/11/2001 attacks and imperialist response. With the Occupy movement, he argues, we have a chance to re-energize struggles against “free trade” agreements that only lower the living standards of working people across the world. [Note: “Beating Back the Corporate Attack,” a Solidarity pamphlet prepared in 2000 for the Global Justice Movement at its height, is available to read on the Publications page.]

Elizabeth Clinton from the International Socialist Organization followed up to discuss the global character of resistance to capitalism, particularly within the context of Egypt, the Wisconsin uprising of early 2011, and the emergence of Occupy. Indeed, protests against the TPP are already global (the kind of “globalization” we like to see!), particularly in Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. She also urged that the movement in the US to stop proposals like the TPP maintain independence from the Democratic Party. On questions of pro-capitalist “free trade,” like many other questions, there is little difference between the two main parties. TPP, once George W. Bush’s pet initiative, has been embraced by President Obama, just as he embraced other “free trade” agreements with South Korea and Central American countries.

Were you also there? Share your thoughts and reflections below in the comments section!

Recent Webzine coverage of other “free trade” deals:

All photos taken by the author, unless noted otherwise.

Ryan is a Solidarity member in Dallas, TX, active as a supporter of labor and Occupy.