Tom Morello Helps Pen Op-Ed Arguing The People, Not The Donald, Defeated the TPP Trade Deal

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen
Tom Morello performs onstage at Global Citizen: The World On Stage at NYU Skirball Center on Sept. 22, 2016 in New York City. 

Despite what you might have read about the election of Donald Trump killing the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Prophets of Rage guitarist Tom Morello writes in a new essay for The Guardian that the real reason the TPP has been defeated was not thanks to The Donald, but thanks to The People. "If not for the constant pressure from activists and civil society groups, the TPP would have become law long before the recent U.S. election," writes Morello, who co-authored the op-ed, along with fellow celebrity activist Evangeline Lilly and Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer.

The trade agreement that was ratified in February between twelve Pacific Rim countries and the U.S. after seven years of negotiations became a talking point in the presidential election, with Republican president-elect Donald Trump vowing to overturn and tear up the plan, and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton saying she was against it, after formerly saying she supported it. The Obama administration announced last week that it would abandon efforts to pass the agreement through Congress. 

"The reports are rolling in: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is dead. If you read the obituaries, most news outlets seem to agree that the cause of death was simple: the election of Donald Trump, who railed against the deal during his campaign. But the pundits have the story wrong," the trio writes in the essay posted on Monday (Nov. 28).

"The real story is that an unprecedented, international uprising of people from across the political spectrum took on some of the most powerful institutions in the world, and won. Sure, Donald Trump – and Bernie Sanders’ – campaign focus on the TPP elevated US awareness about the pact, a wide-reaching international agreement negotiated by the Obama administration. But no single politician killed this deal."

The three activists said that the "massive global deal [that was] negotiated in secret with hundreds of corporate advisers" locked out the public and would have "handed multinational corporations like Walmart, AT&T and Monsanto extraordinary new powers over everything from the wages we earn, to the way we use the internet, to the safety of the food we feed our children."

Morello and Lilly participated in some of the Rock Against the TPP concert series organized by Fight for the Future and Firebrand Records earlier this year. The eight concerts featured a rotating line-up of artists including Morello, Talib Kweli, Anti-Flag, Lilly, Jolie Holland, Dead Prez, Jello Biafra, La Santa Cecilia and others.

"Tom and Evangeline have been fantastically outspoken about so many important issues in the past," Greer relates to Billboard. "When I organized the Rock Against the TPP tour and realized the impact it would have, they were the first two I reached out to."

Greer, whose non-profit has also staged protests in the past aimed at making sure the internet continues to "hold freedom of expression and creativity" at its core, says the TPP would have become law way before anyone even envisioned Trump's unlikely presidential bid if not for the grass roots work of activists in the U.S. and other impacted countries. Those activists pushed back over their objections to multiple provisions in the deal for years, until the deadline to ratify came down to the wire during the U.S. election.

"There was a decade of groundwork put in by an incredibly innovative and scrappy band of organizers around the world to bring this down," Greer says. "With a lot of people feeling hopeless right now and feeling like there's nothing we can do to make this world better and that we're headed for a dark and dangerous time, it's important for people to know that there are ways we can come together." 

Perhaps now is an "incredibly inspiring" moment where activists of all stripes can seek out unprecedented levels of cooperation to make the world a better place, Greer argues. Because after all, she says, real change has always come "from the bottom up," not the top down.

"Now more than ever, it’s crucial that Americans understand how the TPP was really defeated," the trio writes in The Guardian. "An organized and educated public can take on concentrated wealth and power and win. With four years of new battles ahead of us, this is a story we must commit to memory, and a lesson we must take to heart."

Click here to read the full essay.