“This is what democracy looks like,” said Larry Cohen, holding up a “No TPP” sign as he stood next to a projector screen in Torrent Brewing Company. Larry Cohen is a Board Chairman for Our Revolution, an organization started by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to take on a number of political objectives. That includes halting the passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership, the largest regional trade agreement to date.
Over 50 people gathered in the local brewery on Wednesday evening, October 5th for a town-hall style meeting to discuss and ultimately rally against the trade agreement. Attendees sipped craft beer and read pamphlets as they listened to presentations from the chairman and others.
Cohen explained the complicated negotiation process the agreement has been stuck in since the United States, along with 11 Pacific Rim countries, signed the deal in February of 2016. The TPP has been given “fast track” authorization that requires congress to vote yes or no on the deal without modification, but most likely won’t be voted on until after elections in November.
Cohen mentioned the potential harm the deal could have on U.S. manufacturing industries, as well as the global environmental damage that could result from the lack of regulation in developing countries that would take on those cheaper manufacturing jobs.
“The rights of citizens, whether it’s our food rights, our workers’ rights, our environmental rights should at least be at the same level as the rights of multi-national corporations to at least make back their investment,” Cohen said. “This is the loss of future profits.”
Cohen urged the crowd to take action, passing around petitions, volunteer cards, and urging the crowd to call representatives. Not only to voice their concerns, but to find out what their representative’s stances on the partnership are. Kim Weaver, Democratic challenger to Congressman Steve King for Iowa’s fourth Congressional District, took the opportunity to go on record in front of an audience.
“I am against TPP and I will always be against TPP,” Kim Weaver said to the crowd. Weaver acknowledged backlash she has received for publically opposing the deal that some large-scale farmers find beneficial. “It’s recorded, it’s on TV for all the world to see, and that’s my stance.”
Susie Petra is a resident of Ames and vocally opposes the TPP. When asked what she takes issue with about the trade deal, she expressed concern for increasing drug prices, manufacturing wages, and environmental problems. “I do think that any time a country considers giving up sovereignty on some issues means the demise of a democracy,” Petra said.
Gina Folsom, another Ames resident who wore a Bernie Sanders shirt and a Hillary Clinton button, came to the rally to learn more about the TPP and to hear Larry Cohen speak. Folsom’s biggest concern stemmed from the secrecy with which the agreement was developed, as well as the loss of state sovereignty. “I’m going to be making phone calls and writing letters,” she said.
The Trans Pacific Partnership continues to be just one of the many issues to be discussed in this year’s presidential election and beyond.