October 6, 2016
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest trade deal ever, is in the process of being forced through Congress by the Obama Administration and their corporate allies. The TPP takes away the sovereignty and democracy of the United States and gives it to other countries and multi-national corporations.
In mid-September, DRC members Karen Erickstad and Tyler Sanford participated in a fly-in lobby trip organized by Western Organization of Resource Councils and Food and Water Watch. During the full lobby day on Sept. 15, Erickstad and Sanford urged the North Dakota Congressional delegation to oppose the TPP and to stop it from coming up for a vote. The pair were able to meet with staff from all three offices.
“Engaging in the democratic process – however you can – is definitely worth the time and energy, regardless of how responsive our elected officials are to us. We have spoken up on behalf of DRC members and family farms, so now, regardless of the outcome on the TPP, we can say that we told our elected officials our stance and gave them the opportunity to represent us,” Erickstad said. “The more people we can get to call into our senators and representatives to voice their stance on an issue, the more likely our elected officials may be persuaded to act in alignment with our views.”
TPP NATIONAL ACTION WEEK: October 10-15, 2016
Want to learn more about the largest trade deal ever and what you can do to help? Attend a community conversation hosted by DRC members in Bismarck (Oct. 11), Rugby (Oct. 13), or Fargo (Oct. 18).
It seems likely the TPP will come up for a vote after the November election in the lame duck session. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D) is undecided, Senator John Hoeven (R) is leaning in support, and Representative Kevin Cramer (R) is leaning opposed to the TPP. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Jill Stein are opposed to the TPP. Gary Johnson supports the TPP.
This system of so-called free trade is rigged to benefit corporations because it gives them power to overturn laws they see as a barrier to profits. For example, the United States had a sensible country of origin labeling law (COOL) for meat. Canada, Mexico, and corporate meat companies felt that COOL was a barrier to trade and unfair. Canada and Mexico took their complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and they won. Congress repealed the entire country of origin labeling law. Another example involves the Keystone XL. Although thousands of activists pushed Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada is suing the United States because they believe his decision is unfair. TransCanada is asking the United States taxpayers to pay them $15 billion under NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
In addition to the lobby day on Sept. 15, the trip also included background, planning, and strategy sessions with other community organizing groups from Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Idaho, and Oregon. Both Sanford and Erickstad said seeing the inner mechanisms of the government was a “demystifying” and empowering experience that reinforced the power of participation.
“In our current age of social media and the internet, the barriers for the average person to participate politically have never been lower,” said Sanford. “Without our participation, North Dakota and America as a whole would cease to be democratic. So our active participation is not only beneficial, it’s essential.”
“I came away feeling like our government was less out of my reach having walked amidst the places where our elected officials work,” Erickstad said. “It was encouraging to meet the folks from other states fighting the same fight as DRC.”
TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP: FURTHER READING