Celebrating the Death of the TPP Trade Deal

Exclusive: It’s been a rough year for neo-liberalism and its orthodoxy about global “free trade,” now including the political defeat of President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, writes Chelsea Gilmour.

By Chelsea Gilmour

In all practical senses, U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership is over, at least for now. The Washington Post reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Congress will not seek to ratify the trade deal during the lame-duck session, essentially the last hope of the Obama Administration to pass the deal.

An activist wearing an anti-TPP shirt and holding a US flag with corporate logos instead of stars celebrates the defeat of the TPP at a rally on November 17, 2016. (Photo by Chelsea Gilmour)

People celebrated the defeat of the TPP at a rally on November 17, 2016. (Photo by Chelsea Gilmour)

House Speaker Paul Ryan said the GOP does not have enough votes to pass TPP in the House, with soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, confirming the deal will not be approved.

How did this historic defeat happen? One answer is  people-power built around widespread anger over the damage that earlier trade deals, such as NAFTA, have done to America’s manufacturing base and the decent-paying jobs that went with it.

The TPP deal was viewed as one more corporate give-away and another sell-out of the working class, a disdain shared by many on both the Left and Right. That, in turn, inspired a strong bipartisan, grassroots opposition that delayed passage of the deal, carrying the issue into 2016 and the presidential election. Timing sealed the deal’s fate, TPP became political anathema to any politician who tried to touch it.

The pushback against the Trans-Pacific Partnership came from many directions, mainly because of the intersectional nature of the deal itself. The TPP would have affected everything from environmental regulations to internet privacy to pharmaceutical prices to workers’ ability to organize themselves.

Celebrating a Victory

At a rally organized by the labor union National Nurses United (NNU) on Nov. 17 in Washington, D.C., various unions, progressive groups and Congressional Democrats came together to celebrate TPP’s apparent defeat and to emphasize the importance of continuing the grassroots momentum under the incoming Trump administration.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner spoke at the event, along with leaders of various unions and organizations, such as AFL-CIO Vice President Tefere Gebre. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the Communication Workers of America (CWA), and United Steelworkers (USW) were some of the unions in attendance to support the defeat of the deal and to celebrate their role in helping halt the deal in Congress.

Fernando Losada, the Collective Bargaining Director of National Nurses United who organized the rally, said “The movement against TPP was a movement of movements, if you will — a movement for healthcare justice, movement for environmental justice, movement for workers rights, etc. All these things were under threat under TPP and now those same movements are under threat [from the Trump administration], so we have to be vigilant, not only about the trade agreements but all the issues.”

Members of National Nurses United, which organized the anti-TPP event on November 17, 2016, hold a sign supporting Bernie Sanders. (Photo by Chelsea Gilmour)

Members of National Nurses United, which organized the anti-TPP event on November 17, 2016, hold signs supporting Bernie Sanders and Medicare for All. (Photo by Chelsea Gilmour)

The rally was originally organized to galvanize opposition to the TPP but the trade deal’s political demise transformed the event into more of a celebration. Because of Trump’s victory in the Nov. 8 election, the rally shifted emphasis somewhat to concerns about the actions of a Trump administration.

For instance, a main theme of the rally was Medicare for All, single-payer healthcare for all American citizens, but there was also fear that the Republican-controlled Congress would take aim at Medicare itself, the health insurance program for the elderly.

Losada explained: “Medicare itself — Medicare for the limited numbers that it’s available to now — is completely vulnerable and exposed to existential attack by the Republican administration. Paul Ryan, in particular, stated he wants to privatize it.”

Next Steps for Progressives

There were also signs of a shared Left-Right hostility toward policies pushed by the Establishment that harm common citizens, the TPP trade deal being only one, though the rally focused on what progressives should do in the future.

“It’s really about all the political Establishment that would think about undermining our past achievements, our rights, and our aspirations for the future as a movement,” Losado said. “We’ve got to organize people’s power here, there’s just no alternative to it. We can only organize our way out of this one.

“We think that this coming period is going to really rally people, we’re already seeing that. We’re going to see a rise in militancy, a rise in vigilance and maybe this is what the movement needs to finally get us over the hump. The alternative, of a neoliberal regime in power, ultimately may have not helped the final outcome, so we’ll see. We’ll remain hopeful. All we can do is fight.”

Former Ohio Sen. Turner, a Bernie Sanders supporter during Campaign 2016, MC’d the event and asked attendees — particularly progressives — to be wary against tactics of division and hate in their organizing efforts, tactics which were used extensively by the Trump team. She said the “promise lies in the problem” and referenced the popular Democratic slogan, “Love Trumps Hate.”

Bernie Sanders called on Democrats to reflect on their own shortcomings and to formulate a new direction moving forward. He endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, to become the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

(Photo by Chelsea Gilmour)

(Photo by Chelsea Gilmour)

Addressing the likely policies of the incoming Trump administration, Sanders said, “Donald Trump is not going to stand up to the Establishment — We are going to stand up to the Establishment.”

He stressed the need for individuals of all political stripes to get involved in movement-building in their own communities: “If there’s any message I have today it is not ‘Bernie,’ it is ‘All of Us Together.’ …

“As previous speakers have told you and what I believe: if you look at history, the lesson that you learn is that when ordinary people stand up by the millions, when they don’t let demagogues divide us up … when we stand together and keep our eyes on the prize, when we focus on economic justice, when we focus on social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, when we stand together, Donald Trump and nobody — nobody — is going to stop us. Let us go forward together.”

Chelsea Gilmour is an assistant editor at Consortiumnews.com. She has previously published “The Mystery of the Civil War’s Camp Casey”; “Jeb Bush’s Tangled Past”; “The Clintons’ Paid-Speech Bonanza”; and “Sen. Sanders Goes to Washington.]

23 comments for “Celebrating the Death of the TPP Trade Deal

  1. RPDC
    November 21, 2016 at 12:16

    Trump voters stopped the TPP.

    • backwardsevolution
      November 21, 2016 at 12:43

      RPDC – yeah, Trump was against it. Clinton saw that Bernie and Trump were against it, so she had to flip flop and then say she was against it too. I believe that it is as you say, that if Clinton had won, Obama would have rammed it through in the lame duck session (that way Clinton wouldn’t be seen to be flip flopping again, even though she would secretly have wanted it passed). Once Trump was elected, it was dead in the water. No way Obama could get the votes. Done.

    • evelync
      November 21, 2016 at 12:49

      It is a welcoming phenomenon that a growing number of people on the left and the right are coming to some of the same conclusions.
      The political trick of divide and conquer in order to thieve has been discredited.

      Bernie Sanders recognized the solidarity shared by working people on the right and the left. And he frequently asked Trump supporters to not let themselves be distracted by the political trick to find scapegoats to blame it on.
      That was Trump’s message.
      I know a young man whose father lives in rural Illinois and has been a lifelong conservative Republican. The young man told me that he was shocked that his dad voted for Bernie in the primary – his dad didn’t agree with Bernie on some of his policies but he trusted Bernie ‘cause he believes Bernie tells the truth.

      Shame on the Democratic Party to have lost sight of the fact that eventually people will see through the duplicity – say one thing and behind the voters back enact laws/trade deals, written behind closed doors for wealthy interests, that hurt people and are unsustainable.

  2. evelync
    November 21, 2016 at 12:01

    Thank you Chelsea Gilmore for covering one of the far too few inspiring political events that offer a reed of hope for the working people of this country.
    I too was disappointed that Bernie did not make a floor fight at the convention. But I am not convinced, at this sorry time in the country’s political life, that enough people would have been able to let go of the failed two party system that they cling to.
    I’ll be forever grateful to Bernie for being there to give a voice to millions of people including the great Nina Turner and Tulsi Gabbard.

    When the Clinton machine refused to let Nina Turner speak at the convention, I was disgusted and knew we were in for it.

    Bernie did the best that he could and was the first “decent, honest, New Deal democrat” to have succeeded in breaking through the noise and giving millions of activists a voice.

    People in this country are conditioned by fear to vote against their own interests – financial/environmental/economic/geopolitical sustainability. They cling like rats to a sinking ship.

    Had Bernie jumped to the Green Party as his critics here complain, I think there would have been a huuuge chance that he would given the powers that be the opportunity to discredit him as a turncoat.

    Instead, when he saw the writing on the wall, he did the best he could to keep the peoples’ message alive and here he is along with the wonderful organizations like the NNU giving a voice to Nina Turner, Tulsi Gabbard and the millions of people who supported him.

    Instead of going into the dustbin of history, Bernie now has the opportunity of joining millions to fight for the building blocks of a New Deal.

    It will be a huuuuge struggle with all hands on deck.

    • evelync
      November 21, 2016 at 12:17

      I meant : The Great Nina Turner and Great Tulsi Gabbard!
      And all the other great voices that are fighting to overturn the vicious Neoliberal Neocon thieving policies that have been destabilizing the country, and the rest of the planet.
      Greed and shortsighted selfishness have been discredited for a large enough swath of voters that there’s a chance to reverse things.

  3. Steve CSI
    November 21, 2016 at 11:20

    Chelsea, sorry dear, but this is such a BS article, no matter how you view it. People power stopped the TPP? Hell, most people don’t even know what NAFTA is, let alone the TPP. Congress hasn’t done a dam thing for the American people over the last 20 years, even though millions of jobs went down to Mexico and now we’re suppose to believe that they all of a sudden care? Bernie is a sell out, period. I’m sure that hurts your feelings, but sometimes the truth is hard to swallow. The TPP failed because of numerous reasons, and none had to do with our corrupt Congress and Senate. It would have passed, if it wasn’t for the fact that the other countries involved resisted it’s content. Obummer tried to sell America out, but it was those other countries that prevented him from doing it. The “people power” came to be, when they voted Trump into office. He would not pass any trade deal that would hurt the American people, and the TPP would have been the final nail in America’s coffin. May I suggest, before writing your next piece, stick to the truth instead of letting your love for Bernie turn your articles into BS. The “people power” can see thru your failed attempt.

    • backwardsevolution
      November 21, 2016 at 12:37

      Steve – good comments.

  4. ThisOldMan
    November 21, 2016 at 10:07

    Whatever else DT does or does not do will pale to insignificance once our major cities start being abandoned due to constant flooding. There are no perfect politicians; only perfect commentators.

  5. Wm. Boyce
    November 21, 2016 at 01:38

    Wow, the commenters on this thread are absolutely going to LOVE the next couple of years under a president who has no attention span. The TPP being defeated is a silver lining to what is going to be a very rough ride.

    • backwardsevolution
      November 21, 2016 at 03:46

      Wm. Boyce – Obama must be saying, “Damn that Trump! I wanted to ram through the TPP during the lame duck session, but now I can’t. That was going to be my legacy.”

      You might be right about Trump, but it’s hard to believe that he could accomplish what he has in his life if he really had no attention span. Somehow he was able to plan, finance, supervise, delegate, troubleshoot, budget and sell. That takes an attention span, focus.

      Let’s give him a chance and see what he can do.

  6. Mahatma
    November 20, 2016 at 17:27

    Finally at long last the left has figured out at least partially what is going on here. Sadly, they want to rely on the old deal establishment instead of joining the insurgency. It was a “movement of movements” and the left needs to show how it can work together with the tens of millions of people who voted Trump. Join with others not belittle them.

    Sanders is the wrong leader to look to, he is too crippled by his capitulation to be a legitimate leader. The left may not even be in the vanguard of leadership, but it must join in the insurgency to end Neoliberal domination and the aggressive US policy of “Global full spectrum domination.” This is the end of the post WWII consensus of US domination – this is the end of The Project for the New American Century – if Trump reaches some rapprochement with Russia starting in Syria – it will have profound effects around the region especially effecting the Saudis. The entire post war consensus will be over turned, and there is a real possibility of better relations with China.

    There are all huge benefits for ordinary people.

    The left should be asking for jobs in the Trump administration and supporting all of these policies – that is the only way to have a voice in immigration policy where other voices need to be heard.

    Screaming death to the pu**y grabber is only alienating even further tens of millions of ordinary people the left clams to support.

    • backwardsevolution
      November 20, 2016 at 17:39

      Mahatma – yep, by having a “full spectrum tantrum”, the left stabs itself again. Here is a guy who is against American jobs being shipped overseas, against war (this is new for a leader, people!), and yet the left refuses to help him. What fools!

      • John
        November 21, 2016 at 01:17

        To pretend that the Democratic Party is in any way “the left” is to give them far more credit than they deserve. They are, at most, center-right, but more accurately far right.

        One can not be pro-Capitalist and still be “Left”.

        Outside of the US, the meanings of words seem to be better understood.

        FYI, both Sanders and Stein have been suggested by actual Left commentators as suggested members of Drumph’s cabinet. Sanders for Commerce (tasked with Drumpf’s infrastructure project.) Stein for Health and Human Services (tasked with the replacement for Obamacare – Drumpf has, in the past, been a single-payer advocate.)

        Unfortunately, by the Cabinet members already named as well as his VP choice, it looks like Drumpf’s anti-war and fair trade promises were typical hucksterism. His picks to date are the epitome of the establishment he campaigned against…

        • backwardsevolution
          November 21, 2016 at 03:56

          John – if Trump is able to stop the perpetual wars, shred the trade treaties, stop illegal immigration and bring in single-payer health care, that would be quite the run. Let’s hope some of the appointments he’s made are only temporary, just until he gets a handle on what he’s doing.

        • Brad Owen
          November 21, 2016 at 05:41

          Yep. Unless there’s a lot of “you’re fired”s coming from his mouth, the people can forget anything good coming from his administration. Anything that’s associated with the R-party or D-party, is the “kiss-o-death” for the people. But this is needed for the right-winger people…their “hope and change” Obama moment, THEN the left-winger people will embrace them, and we’ll become The People once again, and masters of our destiny, without interference from the R-party or D-party.

          • backwardsevolution
            November 21, 2016 at 12:34

            Brad – what you say would be nice, “The People once again”. Divide and conquer tactics, and always worrying about money and jobs keeps people separated. I too hope we hear a lot of “you’re fired” coming out of Trump. It is his signature, so I don’t know why he’d deviate now (at least I’m hoping).

            People don’t care if they get everything. They just want something. Stopping wars and trade treaties is a good start. Preventing former government employees from lobbying for five years is another good step (as long as they spell out clearly what “lobbying” is).

            Stopping illegal immigration is a must. There just simply are not enough jobs for the American population, but TPTB make it about race, and all the young people get worked up and say, “Yeah, that’s racism.” Meanwhile, they’re working two and three jobs with no benefits. How’s that working out for them? But as long as TPTB keep them focused on “racial” issues and not the loss of their jobs, they’ll keep protesting the very person (Trump) who wants to bring their jobs back. Madness.

  7. backwardsevolution
    November 20, 2016 at 16:39

    “Addressing the likely policies of the incoming Trump administration, Sanders said, “Donald Trump is not going to stand up to the Establishment — We are going to stand up to the Establishment.”

    Like you stood up to the establishment when you grovelled at Clinton’s feet, and prostrated yourself in front of the world? Way to go, Bernie! That’s the way to stand up to them!

    Bernie Sanders sucked in millions of young people, and then he turned his back on them. He deserves no ear.

    • backwardsevolution
      November 20, 2016 at 17:32

      I just have to laugh at the “Donald Trump is not going to stand up to the Establishment” line. He was torn to shreds and vilified in the press, and yet he kept on. His own party worked hard against him, and yet he kept on. Does this sound like someone who won’t stand up to the establishment?

      Listen to the first couple seconds of this video by Trump where he says, “Washington establishment, and the financial and media corporations that fund it, exist for only one reason: to protect and enrich itself. The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind.”


      Who has said this before? Who even dared? Bernie? Nope, he caved and kissed Clinton’s boots. If Trump hadn’t been running for President, they probably would have arrested him for treason, for telling secrets, for spilling the beans. I’m sure the establishment wanted to Snowden him.

      Trump has been calling for “fair trade”, not “free trade”. He has been against the free trade treaties (NAFTA, TPP, TTIP). You can barely sell anything into China, and yet they have free rein to export into your country.

    • Dennis Merwood
      November 20, 2016 at 17:54

      If Bernie Sanders thinks he has political future after his shameful caving in and becoming a Hillary Clinton sycophant in these last Presidential elections, he is in for a rude shock.

      • Peter Loeb
        November 21, 2016 at 08:21


        Agreeing with Dennis Merwood, Mahatma and others.

        1. The false joy that the left will profit only by a truly disastrous
        loss is gravely misplaced. Is the left saying” “Think of all the
        joy and gains we would make if millions of citizens were
        thrown off social security, medicare, medicaid, deported etc.”

        2. Bernie is totally obscuring the hate propaganda of
        the Democratic Party against Palestine, against BLM,
        against BDS (Boycott Divest Sanction)against Russia.
        Bernie wants everyone to forget his support of the military complex.
        .because it creates jobs in Vermont.

        3. This so-called “celebration” (??) obfuscates the
        response of unions and others in Europe.(See
        Germany’s statement by Angela Merkel.)

        4. Bye bye Bernie!. Welcome young new leaders to
        confront the old-time leaders of the Democratic
        Party such as Chuck Schumer, unanimously elected
        new Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator from New York.

        —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  8. Bart in Virginia
    November 20, 2016 at 15:10

    Some of these deals are hard to kill. Does anyone remember the SST program back in the mid 1970s? One of Herblock’s great cartoons showed a SST vampire rising from its grave after being thought already dead.

    With the money behind the TPP I could see many policians being seduced. My two weak-kneed Senators both came out for it, and many would follow with the requisite bribes being made.

    • rosemerry
      November 20, 2016 at 17:41

      The MAI was defeated by massive people power in the 1990s. Remember that it is not only the USA involved-many other countries are against it too.

  9. Joe Tedesk
    November 20, 2016 at 11:53

    When there is no right or left but only one voice, the people win. Remember, United we stand divided we fall. Or as the Beatles had said, come together right now.

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