TPP is too massive, too secret to be fast-tracked; so we joined Ohio’s kayak-tivists, rowed to Sen. Portman’s house in protest

What’s the TPP and what’s wrong with it?

TPP, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is a trade deal involving 12 specific countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the U.S.) that affects 40% of global GDP and 1/3 of global trade – making this one of the largest trade deals in world history. It touches many economic areas ranging from the environment, labor, trade tariffs, the pharmaceutical industry, and many more, but the details are largely unable to be disclosed (legally), making public comprehension and awareness of this trade deal even more difficult to stimulate. But people need to know what’s inside this agreement, before it’s too late.


Quite simply, the TPP would make it easier for corporations to exploit cheap labor in countries like Vietnam, the smaller Pacific Rim nations that are also a part of the deal. We understand that if a company has the incentivized ability to find cheaper labor in Vietnam, it will more than likely move its labor force from the United States to that other country, eliminating American jobs. After all, cutting costs (like the cost of paying living wages to workers in the U.S.) can be a much more attractive enticement to corporations than the simple desire to provide jobs and support the livelihood of their American workers. When another similar trade deal called NAFTA was passed in 1993, hundreds of thousands of American workers were fired. So, we’re looking at a probable repeat of those same outcomes, which is why #NotAnotherNAFTA may be something you’ve seen trending on social media in opposition to this trade agreement.


When trade restrictions are lifted, as they sometimes are, we know that more natural resources will get used in order produce more goods. The governments involved in the TPP have called the agreement an “ambitious, 21st-century trade agreement” in relation to the environment, but the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the World Wildlife Fund, and other major environmental protection agencies all disagree. “TPP could lead to increased stress on natural resources and species including trees, fish, and wildlife,” the Sierra Club said in one statement. The only reasons they’re not able to offer more particulars is because the deal has been negotiated in secret, and those privy to its details are bound by law not to disclose.

Difficult to follow

Trade deals of this magnitude have, in the past, typically been done in relative secrecy, and the TPP is no different. Actually… that’s not entirely true. It is different from other trade deals in the level of its secrecy, especially in response to what has been widespread public demand to know more information. In trade deals like this, there gets appointed a trusted group of government advisers that is allowed to review the deal and give advice; but, in cases like this one where the appointed advisers bring up many objections, that side of the trade policy debate is largely kept away from public view through legal non-disclosure constraints. Michael Wessel is one of the advisers on this trade bill who saw firsthand the many negative consequences that would be wrought by its passage. Wessel has been an adviser on trade policy issues for the last 21 years. He just wrote this article for Politico about his frustrations with the public conversation surrounding the TPP, explaining how HE can’t even see the entire agreement, nor can he discuss with voters what this deal would mean for the future of America’s workforce.

How we protested

Yesterday, May 19, 2015, we kayaked to Ohio’s Junior Senator, Rob Portman’s house, to show our commitment to eco-appreciation, our disdain for bad trade deals, and our promise to hold Portman accountable for whatever votes he casts regarding passage of the TPP. We called ourselves the American Armada. Kayak-tivism at its finest.

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Led by ProgressOhio, groups of activists from Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and areas all in between, met up in Cincinnati on a beautiful Tuesday morning and kayaked past Senator Portman’s house, making it known that we will not be silent in the event he votes to support this deal.

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The sight was breathtaking. 
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With the Senate vote on whether or not to fast-track the TPP – a legislative agreement that would prevent any amendments from being made to the deal in any future vote – coming later this week, we knew we needed to hurry up our kayaktivism if we were to get to Portman before D-Day. While many would-be kayaktivists were unable to join due to the time of the rally, we know that many more Ohioans share our objections to the TPP. These people must also get through to Portman with their show of disapproval, which you can do by calling his D.C. office at 202-224-3353 or emailing him here.

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