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Activists Use Star Power to Protest Trans-Pacific Partnership Deal

The TPP trade deal involves 12 nations along the Pacific Rim, which together make up 40 percent of world trade. (Backbone Campaign/flickr)
The TPP trade deal involves 12 nations along the Pacific Rim, which together make up 40 percent of world trade. (Backbone Campaign/flickr)
August 19, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. - Activists on Saturday in Portland plan to use the power of music to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Digital activist group Fight For The Future has put together Rock Against the TPP, which is touring the country to raise awareness about the massive 12-nation deal. Michael Shannon, executive director of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, which is sponsoring the tour, said he believes the worst part of the deal gives corporations the ability to run roughshod over the regulations of involved nations.

"They're taking aim at regulations that are designed to protect workers, that are designed to protect climate, and making those into 'trade barriers.' The TPP would give multinational corporations the ability to sue nation-states over regulations that they perceive as trade barriers," Shannon said.

President Obama is embarking on a new campaign to gather support for the TPP, which he hopes will pass during the lame-duck session of Congress after the election. Obama has said the deal will make American products easier to sell abroad and also help the country compete globally with China.

The Rock Against the TPP lineup includes Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, actress Evangeline Lilly, and hip-hop artist and activist Talib Kweli. Taina Asili, a singer-songwriter who focuses on social-justice issues, is also part of the tour. Asili, like other activists, is worried that much of the deal was written without enough oversight from elected officials.

"The fact that this was basically created behind closed doors and that the people's voice was not involved - that even Congress's voice was not involved in the decision-making around what went into this agreement - is a slap in the face to democracy," Asili said.

The Beaver State relies heavily on trade and export, especially with Asian countries, exporting $20 billion of products annually. Most Oregon members of Congress agree on the need to negotiate a trade deal in some form, but both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump have opposed the TPP. Shannon said he agrees with Clinton that U.S. trade policy needs, as he puts it, "fundamental rethinking."

"I'd like to take Secretary Clinton at her word," Shannon said, "and if she is elected president, work with her and the Oregon Congressional delegation to do that fundamental 'rethink.' "

Concert information is online at rockagainstthetpp.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR