Left’s TPP opposition is no passing fad – Politico

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Opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, at least in the Sanders wing of the party, is showing no sign of cooling off. | Getty

The Sanders wing in Philadelphia has internalized opposition to free trade.

Bernie Sanders’ “revolution” has awakened a hostility to the Trans-Pacific Partnership that goes deeper than a hollow applause line.

Delegates and other activists, decked out in buttons and shirts opposing the TPP at the Democratic National Committee, in interviews with POLITICO, were well versed in the trade deal’s provisions and the downside of past agreements.

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Opposition to TPP, at least in the Sanders wing of the party, is showing no sign of cooling off after a thwarted bid to embed that stance in the party platform. Sanders electrified the convention hall Monday with his call to stop a vote on the deal during the lame-duck session of Congress. And Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s suggestion that Hillary Clinton would flip to supporting TPP as president, with some tweaks, was swiftly repudiated by her campaign.

Left-wing protests are often denigrated for their grab-bag of causes célèbres — a dynamic on display this week when anti-trade, Black Lives Matter and pro-Palestinian marchers mingled. But TPP seems to dovetail with many of those other causes: because it’s so sprawling, people can project onto it whatever issues they care deeply about.

For Stephanie Goslen, a Sanders delegate from North Carolina, that’s the environment. The retired teacher said the deal will lead to more carbon emissions by sending more goods across the ocean instead of producing them close to where they’re consumed.

“We need to start changing how we do things. I don’t think this earth has the time,” she said.

Khadijah Shariff, a Houston delegate at large, said the agreement would allow food imports from countries that have lower inspection standards than the U.S. and will encourage companies to relocate jobs to lower-wage countries. She compared the TPP’s provisions for corporate rights to the free-speech protections in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

“It’s going to send jobs overseas and take away from the middle class,” she said.

Josh Youngerman, a 27-year-old who came from New York to protest, wearing a “F— it, I guess I’m a democratic socialist” T-shirt, said the pact would lead to more fracking by expanding oil and gas exports and would empower companies to sue countries for adverse regulatory or permitting decisions, as the Canadian company behind the Keystone XL pipeline is currently doing.

Though Youngerman said he wasn’t exactly sure which countries were party to the trade deal, he also correctly explained that the TPP would help drug companies raise prices and limit generic competitors in other countries.

“My job is to always stay outraged because otherwise we can’t get progress,” he said. “It has to be fair trade, it can’t just be free trade.”

Chris Fonnesbeck, a retired social worker from Ludington, Michigan, said she opposes TPP because her husband worked as a trainer in the auto industry and she’s seen firsthand how past trade deals led to fewer American jobs. It’s difficult to isolate the economic impact of the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, but nonpartisan studies credit NAFTA with expanding trade and modestly increasing GDP, while manufacturing sectors like cars bore the brunt of the costs.

“Trade agreements have not worked out for the labor force in our country,” said JoAnn Fujioka, a Denver delegate for Sanders. “I don’t think it makes any sense with the history of NAFTA.”

Elizabeth Davis, a Sanders delegate from North Carolina, also said the trade deal would make it easier for companies to outsource, as in earlier deals.

“As soon as it gets to be profitable, they’ll decide to screw the American worker, and we’ll get inferior products,” Davis said.

Some of the White House efforts to sell the trade deal, such as emphasizing the improved labor standards it would bring to Southeast Asia, failed to resonate, too.

“What about increasing labor standards here?” said Maureen Sullivan, a 53-year-old Realtor and Sanders delegate from Chicago. “I remember when I had a life and a job, and I was able to enjoy myself and not work 70 hours a week just to make ends meet.”

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