Sierra Club volunteer Jesse Swanhuyser is so committed to educating people on the threats of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that the California lawyer recently spent three days traveling through Ohio with other volunteers to speak at educational meetings.
"Every person in every room was always astonished to find out about the secret discussions taking place in a trade deal that undermines not only our environmental goals, but also our hopes for working people, family farmers, and the potential for sustainable development," says Jesse.
Now Jesse, who is the chair of the Sierra Club's committee on international trade, human rights, and the environment, is spending time back in California doing similar coalition building and education work.
"The name of my Sierra Club committee is long, but it says something about what these trade agreements are all about - they cover many areas well beyond trade and this one poses many threats."
The U.S. is currently negotiating the TPP with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The Sierra Club, and a diverse coalition of allies are concerned about the lack of transparency in the TPP negotiations and what that secrecy means. As I've said before, the TPP has a number of major problems , including:
1) It would allow corporations to sue a government over virtually any law or regulation that a corporation argues is hurting its profits.
2) It would allow a significant increase in liquefied natural gas exports from the U.S., leading to a massive increase in fracking.
3) It would allow a rollback of consumer rights.
4) It would threaten workers' rights by giving foreign corporations greater rights than domestic ones, thereby encouraging U.S. companies to move their operations overseas.
The TPP nations are meeting this week in Brunei, on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in yet another series of closed-door meetings.
"Governments are saying that this might be the last official round of these trade talks -- which seems both unacceptable and impossible," says Ilana Solomon, the Sierra Club's trade representative.
"It's unacceptable because not a single word of draft text has been released to the public, despite the fact that the agreement has been under negotiation for more than three years and would affect the lives of millions of Americans and others across the globe. It seems impossible because so many critical issues in the pact remain unresolved going into this 'final' round."
Jesse says he is most frightened by the prospect of foreign companies suing sovereign nations because they don't agree with environmental or public health protections. "We're all for trade -- but this version of trade is wrong. What we need is fair trade!"
The AFL-CIO and other international labor allies just released an excellent short, educational video on the problems with the TPP as well.
For those who want to get involved and demand action on the TPP, Jesse recommends educating your friends and family and talking to your members of Congress right away.
"Contact your members of Congress and tell them to replace free trade with responsible trade," says Jesse. "We want trade, we just don't think this model is the appropriate way, and communicating that to Congress is critical."