The Trans-Pacific Partnership has come under increasing fire since WikiLeaks released the newest draft version of the agreement's intellectual property chapter last week.
The draft language in the 95-page chapter alarmed advocacy groups on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, as it made clear that the secretive negotiations over the TPP have produced a document with wide-ranging implications for copyright law, Internet freedom, access to medicine and other important domains.
A number of petitions, protests and campaigns have been organized to let citizens voice their concerns about the agreement, and perhaps even stop it from moving forward as currently written. Information about how to get involved in a number of these efforts is compiled below.
But first, in case you're not familiar with the TPP, it is a major trade treaty being negotiated behind closed doors by representatives of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei and Australia. Several hundred representatives of major orporations have access to the draft text, which has been amended twice since the version WikiLeaks released Nov. 13 was scribed.
The governments of the countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership are not able to view the text while it is being discussed by the corporations, meaning that the public has little to no input on what will be included in its final iteration.
The text, as currently written, would have a number of major impacts, including lengthening copyright terms in many party nations, compelling Internet service providers to police copyright violations, limiting access to low-cost medications and chilling some basic uses of the Internet. It has been compared to proposals like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2011 but never passed, and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Trade Agreement (ACTA), which has been signed by more than 30 countries but has yet to go into effect as countries have shied away from ratifying it.
A wide range of groups are launching initiatives to shine a spotlight on the shadowy TPP agreement, expose its worst potential harms, shame the corporations that are party to it, and potentially even stop governments from approving it in coming months. Here are some ways ordinary citizens can get involved in the fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership:
1. Take part in direct action events: Physically participating in protests and other direct actions is probably the boldest way to get involved in the fight against the TPP. The advocacy group Flush The TPP has set up a website dedicated to providing links to a number of such events, from a planned Nov. 25 protest near an appearance by President Barack Obama in Beverly Hills, Calif., to Tuesday's Rally to Protect the Climate from the TPP in Washington, D.C.
These events are forums for like-minded citizens to voice their opposition to the agreement, as well as opportunities to generate media attention to the anti-TPP cause. But at their base, they aim to make sure the topic remains a major international issue, as the description of the Beverly Hills event makes clear: "Let’s be there to greet Obama and tell him to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the new trade agreement being negotiated totally in secret."
Organizers of similar actions can apply to have their plans included on Flush The TPP's map of such events by filling out a short form on the group's website. Another group, Expose The TPP, has also created a website listing details of anti-TPP events, which people can consult when making plans to attend rallies, protests and marches. And other organizations have set up similar sites, including Stop TPP (though this site has not been updated recently.)
2. Contact your elected representatives: Another commonly employed tactics activists can use to voice their opposition to the TPP is contacting their elected representatives in order to let them know what they think about the agreement.
The progressive advocacy group Public Citizen is one of a number that has made this process simple. By just visiting its dedicated politician contact page and entering their zip code, people can access a form that streamlines the process of sending a letter to their House representative and either congratulate him or her for signing on to a new bill aimed at stopping the TPP from being fast-tracked through Congress, or urging them to do so before it's too late.
"I am relying on you to stand up for me and get the TPP mess fixed," reads part of a suggested message provided by Public Citizen, and the organization hopes that with enough such letters, Congress will be forced to take a step back and truly consider the interests of the American people once the final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership goes before them for approval.
A similar website providing an easy way to contact Congress members has also been set up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, though it provides a different message focused mainly on the Internet restrictions the agreement would create as currently written.
Alternatively, opponents of the TPP can call their representatives in hopes that the personal touch will help their message get through to the politicians in Washington. Public Citizen again provides a website aimed at making this process as simple as possible, providing instructions about how to find their representative's phone number and even providing a script that callers can use when phoning elected officials that begins with, "I'm a constituent, and I am strongly opposed to my representative giving away Congress’ constitutional authority to control our trade policy."
Expose The TPP goes one step further, suggesting that constituents set up "lobby visits," or meetings with their elected officials aimed at conveying their opposition to the agreement. The group has provided a comprehensive tip sheet on how to navigate the process of scheduling and conducting such a meeting via its website.
3. Sign petitions: This may be one of the least effective things a single individual can do, but if hundreds of thousands of people sign on to petitions opposing the TPP as it is currently written, that collective effort has the real potential to drive change, as politicians realize that the issue is important to voters.
There are numerous petition drives circling among the anti-TPP movement, but Avaaz seems to have the most popular one by far. Titled "One Million to Stop the Corporate Death Star," the international petition has already ammassed more than 712,000 of the 1 million signatures its organizers hope to compile in opposition to the TPP.
The Avaaz petition is fairly straightforward, and states that, "As concerned global citizens, we call on you to make the TPP process transparent and accountable to all, and to reject any plans that limit our governments' power to regulate in the public interest."
The anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership group Stop The Trap also has a high-profile petition, aimed squarely at decrying the Internet restrictions in the draft text of the agreement's intellectual property chapter. Having gathered more than 135,000 signatures, it begins by stating, "I oppose any provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that would expand the power of conglomerates, including by criminalizing or otherwise restricting the use of the Internet."
4. Leverage social media: One easy way armchair activists can employ in the anti-TPP fight is to use their social media accounts to spread the message about the agreement among their personal and professional networks. Fight for the Future has created an image bearing the text, "World leaders are meeting this week to solidify an EXTREME Internet censorship agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership," and is now imploring Twitter and Facebook users to share it with their friends and followers in hopes of raising awareness about the agreement.
Or you can simply link to articles and sites that provide information about the TPP, or even create images, videos and social media campaigns of your own.
5. Get creative: One more way to raise awareness about the potential downsides of the TPP is to deploy your creative toolbox. If you're a writer, you can craft a cogent letter to the editor and send it to your local newspaper, which Expose The TPP teaches you how to do via a dedicated site.
If words aren't your thing, you can consider participating in a light projection protest. Essentially, this tactic involves using spotlights and stencils to display messages on buildings and other public places, and your images, words and bravery are your only limitations. Backbone Campaign's website provides a primer on light projection protests to get you started.
The possibilities in art protests, as in art itself, are endless, as Expose The TPP explains in its page on art activism. From street theater and film to painting and writing songs, protesters can spread the word about the agreement using the power of self-expression.