After six years of relentless campaigning, a “trade” deal spanning 12 nations, supported by the global corporate lobby, and covering 40% of the economic activity of the planet is dead.
But as I celebrated this momentous win for transnational people-powered campaigning on Facebook on Monday, and marvelled at the 130,000 Australians that helped make this happen, I was met with a wave of criticism.
“Um … actually I think a certain truly horrible American politician is to be the end of the TPP.”
“Trump did it. Not any organisations or countries, just one racist right wing nut saved all the left wingers. Ain’t politics the darnedest thing.”
So, let me get this straight. First I have to deal with the fact that Donald Trump is going to be president. And now the loudmouth outrage machine is getting all the glory for the millions of hours from hundreds of thousands of people and campaigners that slaved away these past six years to build a tidal wave of resistance to the Trojan horse “trade” deal? The record needs some serious straightening.
Here’s the true story of the TPP. And, as you’ll see, Donald Trump is one minor bleep at the end of a very long people-powered journey that got us here.
Campaigning against the dangers of the TPP started in Australia and abroad as soon as it was clear what risks the deal would likely include, but lack of public understanding and knowledge was a big barrier to engagement. The education work by the campaign had an effect — by July 2015, 61% of Australians polled opposed a key issue in the TPP: Investor State Dispute Settlement (more on that later).
GetUp members first got involved in the start of 2015 with a powerful petition that gathered steam — now sitting at over 130,000 signatures. And that was only the start, with over 17,000 personally crafted emails sent to Australian MPs and senators, over 19,000 people chipping in to fund videos, newspaper and TV ads, and 32,000 door-hangers were placed on neighbourhood doors in marginal seats to sound the alarm.
Australian people power even engaged in the US political debate, where the deal was on tenterhooks thanks to the strong campaigning by community groups and unions. They helped build the pressure with advertising that targeted US congressional leaders. And when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull lobbied Congress early this year to persuade them to support the TPP, over 300 Australians flooded the Facebook page of the US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to make clear that Turnbull’s assurances weren’t in tune with the Australian public.
Most recently, GetUp funded research into the use of trade deals by US corporations against Canada showed that the biggest reasons for corporations to sue were environmental and health-related laws — leading to decisions or settlements totalling hundreds of millions of dollars being paid out to multinationals.
The Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team have publicly opposed the TPP. And Labor has sought to indefinitely defer a vote on the TPP in the Senate and strengthened the party’s position on the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause, where multinational corporations receive special rights to sue governments legislating in the community interest, in private arbitration panels.
The proof that it was people power that stopped the TPP is that Donald Trump wasn’t alone in his opposition to it. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and a significant number of representatives in the US Congress also opposed the deal — because that is what people were demanding.
The TPP’s death sends a message that the days of the community passively accepting deals that harm the environment, affordable medicines, internet freedoms, and the public interest at large, are over. All politicians should heed this, and hold true to the reason they were elected in the first place: to serve the community interest.
The community, and the organisations that have been leading the charge against the TPP, want trade deals — but they need to be about trade, not corporate power-grabs. Trade deals should be fair for working people across all the nations it covers, they need to safeguard the ability of our government to act in the public interest in areas like health and the environment, and they need to focus on trade issues and not veer into services that should be left to the community and their elected representatives to run.
The TPP’s death is a win, but the global political and corporate elites will no doubt try again; we’re already seeing world leaders shifting their attention to other trade deals, like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and Trade in Services Agreement, that have TPP-like features. The community will be ready to fight these, too.
So, let’s learn the main lesson from the death of the TPP: we need real and fair trade agreements, not new privileges for multinationals.