UM students protest international trade agreement

Posted on Feb 5 2016 - 9:54am by Morgan Walker

Members of 12 nations signed one of the largest multinational trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in New Zealand on Thursday. The nations included Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
The TPP deal, which covers roughly 40 percent of the world economy, will go through a ratification period of two years and the final text must be approved before the deal will go into effect.

As part of a widespread international grassroots movement against the TPP, freshman public policy leadership major Jaz Brisack organized the “Say No to the TPP” rally. The rally was held in the Grove on Thursday as an effort to impact public perception on this issue. This protest was just one of thousands held across the world in conjunction with the international movement, Flush the TPP.

Skyler Crane, organizer of the Stop TTP rally, holds up a sign at Thursdays rally. (Photo by: Ariel Cobbert)

Jaz Brisack, organizer of the Stop TTP rally, holds up a sign at Thursdays rally. (Photo by: Ariel Cobbert)

The pact is organized to deepen economic ties between the 12 nations, slash tariffs and boost trade growth with the possibility of creating a single market operation. Tariffs on US manufactured goods and most US farm products will disappear almost immediately after the deal is ratified. Competition between the countries’ labor forces will increase, which many Americans fear will relocate jobs from the US to developing countries.
“It’s important to have a conversation about this issue to show people it should be a major part of the discussion,” Brisack said. “The issues the TPP brings up can impact people in their everyday lives, and I want to help educate people about these issues.”

According to Brisack, the impacts of the TPP are infinite and not limited to any particular group. This deal will impact food safety and labeling, workers’ rights, copyright laws, consumers, small businesses and the environment, Brisack said.

Brisack said she is hopeful her efforts will influence global change. Her goal beyond this protest is to start a chapter of Popular Resistance to give students an outlet to become involved in similar issues, Brisack said.

“I’m excited to see where this leads; I think it has the potential to be a dynamic organization for change. I don’t know how much can come of this, but I do know big policy inputs can come from the smallest things,” Brisack said. “I want people to realize this is just one manifestation of a policy system and it’s not that difficult to raise awareness and start a coalition, it can really be done by anyone.”

Journalism professor Joseph Atkins informed the group of the impact the TPP will have on all individuals, as well as the lack of transparency that loomed over this deal.

“This deal was done in secret by 600 lobbyists, and there is no remission of human rights in that document,” Atkins said. “Most of the chapters in this deal are devoted to corporate rights, but what about human rights or government sovereignty?”

Atkins said this issue has been swept under the rug and hasn’t been focused on nearly enough.
“There is no reportage of the TPP in the media or on the presidential debate stages,” Atkins said.

Atkins also compared the effects of the TPP to the North American Free Trade Agreement, describing it as the ‘baby NAFTA.’”

Atkins urged members in attendance to get involved by contacting their senator or representative and continuing to vocally spread the message against the TPP.
Sophomore public policy and leadership major Malik Pridgeon was unaware of the issues existing with the TPP, but after the rally, he said he is eager to spread the word.

“I had no clue about the TPP, but now I realize it’s a scary task taking on corporate entities,” Pridgeon said. “I am excited to work with Jaz in the future because bringing awareness to this prominent issue is the best and only way to put a stop to it.”