On Saturday, December 1, I joined an amazing group of dedicated trade justice activists from the United States and Canada at the Peace Arch Park straddling the border between British Columbia and Washington State. Most of the 200-plus people had made a long commute from Portland and Seattle but the energy levels stayed high from 1 to 4 p.m. for our rally against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks happening far, far away in Auckland, New Zealand this week.
This was in no small part thanks to key organizer Kristen Beifus of the Washington Fair Trade Campaign, who Council of Canadians chapter members will remember from our annual meeting in Nanaimo this year. And to Bill Boyer and the Backbone Campaign, who kept the crowd warm through the occasional bursts of west-coast showers. (Backbone provided the toilet paper and butt cheeks in the photo up top.)
Also keeping our spirits high were the members of the Seattle Fandango Project, who use the 400-year-old Mexican tradition to "build and transform community." According to the group's website, they "coalesced in the late summer of 2009 with the purpose of building a fandango community in Seattle and connect it to the larger movement in other parts of the United States and in Mexico." Check out this video of one of their performances at the TPPxBorder rally.
The cross-border gathering was symbolic for a few reasons. Canada and Mexico are at the negotiating table for the first time this week, having only seen the texts a few months ago, but their entry to the TPP creates an interesting dynamic. For all intents and purposes, the massive 11-country trade talks will be a NAFTA renegotiation for North America. That's because most of the trade Canada and Mexico do is with the United States. Opportunities in the other TPP countries are small to insignificant.
Next year also marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of NAFTA, which North American governments and business groups have already started to use to promote the TPP as NAFTA's natural extension. But if we're going to renegotiate NAFTA, we think it should be on our terms -- not the terms of the 600-plus corporate lobbyists who attend these negotiating sessions in Auckland and elsewhere.
And so the trade activists used our cross-border action to launch a North American Unity Statement Opposing NAFTA Expansion through the TPP. You can read the statement on the TPPxBorder webpage or listen to Delta-Richmond Council of Canadians chapter activist Cathy Wilander read it out loud to the December 1 gathering at the Peace Arch Park. (After Cathy's reading, Arthur Stamoulis of the Citizens Trade Campaign reads aloud a statement of solidarity for the cross-border action from the UNT, Mexico's national labour federation.)
The challenge is to get 1,000 groups to sign the statement as a first step toward creating a tri-national (and eventually hemispheric or global) peoples' movement against the TPP. If you think there are associations or community groups in your region that would be interested in signing the statement, please direct them to the TPPxBorder website.
Before I sign off, a final video from the TPPxBorder website. Smashing the TPP is essential. It's also going to be a lot of fun.
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