Anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership protestors congregated at the federal courthouse in downtown Fresno Monday afternoon to denounce the agreement’s impact on a laundry list of economic, climate and health issues.
A crowd of about 50 trickled through during the two-hour, low-key protest, which was partly a rally with chants and signs and partly a panel with speakers representing a variety of issues affected by TPP. The atmosphere was congenial and respectful.
The gathering featured five speakers who addressed the various issues, from usurping government sovereignty through lawsuits to setbacks in producing clean energy. Protestors wielded anti-TPP signs and munched on homemade brownies. Clumped together in the shade, protestors listened to speakers and shouted chants like this anti-fracking chant: “Shut it down, keep it in the ground!”
Everything is going to hell.
Julius Rasmussen, Jr., protester
“Everything is going to hell,” Julius Rasmussen Jr., a bike-riding, semi-retired 73-year-old, said. The agreement would cripple the court system because corporations can sue governments for threatening their profits, he said.
“It cripples people’s ability to stand up for themselves,” Rasmussen said. He predicted the agreement would turn America’s “corporate-ocracy” into a global dictator.
Laura Rosenberger, 49, who volunteers for Fresnans Against Fracking, came prepared to educate with bags full of fliers, petitions and a large neon poster with pictures precariously balanced on her green bicycle. She said TPP would let fracking continue, which she said means more explosions, smog, cancer and polluted water in the aquifers.
“The whole environment depends on this,” she said.
Cherylyn Smith, the Sierra Club climate and energy committee chair, said the agreement makes adhering to the goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement impossible for the U.S. She said President Barack Obama pays lip service to climate change, but his actions go against his comments.
Stan Santos, a labor leader with the Construction Workers Association, said the agreement has global labor ramifications that could exploit workers in other countries. He cited a shooting of unionized teachers in Mexico as proof that supporting TPP supports the mistreatment of unionized workers in signatory countries.
Pediatrician James Kratzer rallied the crowed with a series of call-and-response questions, revealing his assessment of TPP’s ramifications in the health sector: “Do we want more asthma?” “No!” “Do we want more tuberculosis?” “No!” “Do we want big pharma to have more profits?” “No!” “Do we want higher medicine prices?” “No!”
TPP is the North American Free Trade Agreement on steroids. It has 12 signatory countries representing the Pacific Rim: the U.S., Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru. The agreement would create the world’s largest free trade zone as a single market, open up trade and deregulate corporations within the bloc.
The agreement is supported by farm groups like the California Fresh Fruit Association. Marcy Martin, director of trade for the association, said the fact that the negotiators managed to reduce tariffs and make positive strides for agriculture in agreements with countries who do not prioritize open agriculture markets with the U.S. is an impressive accomplishment.
Martin concedes there’s good and bad to the agreement because it involves compromises, but the trade agreement as a whole benefits farmers.
She said scientific panels and advisory committees will help settle differences in standards governing things such as food quality or labor. As for labor standards, Martin said those differences will be something the signatory countries will talk about for a long time.
“The agreement doesn’t remedy everything, just what we can control,” Martin said.