Protestors hold a sign saying "No to the Trans-Pacific Parternship, NAFTA of the Pacific."

5 things feminists need to know about the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal


Marginalized women and their interests are not given a seat at the TPP deciding table. Image credit

If passed, the Trans Pacific Partnership will be one of the most far-reaching “free trade” agreements in history — and a huge boost to global corporate power. 

Up until this point, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been one of the most famous free trade agreements. This pact between Canada, the United States, and Mexico created “free trade zones” in which corporations are free to do business in an open market, unhindered by tariffs and subsidies that protect certain industries, countries, or public interests. It also facilitated the process through which corporations could offshore jobs, essentially looking for communities that would accept the cheapest wages for their work with few labor protections.

NAFTA and other neoliberal policies like it allow for the free movement of goods and capital, but create economic incentives for governments and corporations to militarize and police the Border. In every case, they prioritize corporate profits over people and environmental and social protections.


Women working in maquiladoras deal with terrible working conditions and low pay. Image credit.

This often means women, particularly low-income women of color, get caught up in the neoliberal machine, exploited through all kinds of physical and structural violence to work in abhorrent conditions. In addition to causing American job losses, NAFTA lead to what we now know as maquiladoras: factories in Mexico that employ mostly young women under terrible working conditions and for miserable wages.

And the the Trans Pacific Partnership, otherwise known as the TPP (easy to confuse with — and just as shitty as — toilet paper) will only expand these kind of policies. It’s been called “NAFTA on steroids.”

Here are a few things you should know about this latest attack on justice:

1. It’s big.

This is an agreement between the U.S. and 11 other countries in the Pacific Rim: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The TPP will create rules that govern more than 40 percent of the world’s economy.

2. It’s bad.

While its proponents are calling it a “free trade” deal, it’s more accurately a deregulation agreement that would protect corporations at our expense. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now describes the deal like this: “The TPP, if passed, would implement trade rules that make it illegal for governments to create and enforce regulations on everything from environmental standards, to wage and labor laws, to the duration of copyrights. A law prohibiting the sale of goods made in sweatshops in Vietnam could be ruled illegal, for example, as a barrier to trade.” The TPP would see people as “barriers to trade.”

3. It was written by corporations that hope you’re not paying attention. 

The deal is being written by industry groups and corporations without public input, and the negotiations have been shrouded in secrecy. As economist Dean Baker told Bill Moyers, “This really is a deal that’s being negotiated by corporations for corporations, and any benefit it provides to the bulk of the population of this country will be purely incidental.”

4. It’s coming.

Obama has been aggressively seeking “fast-track authority” for the TPP, despite Democratic opposition. If granted, this would allow the president to negotiate the trade deal and then present it to Congress for a vote, no amendments allowed.

5. It’s up to us to stop it. 

If our president won’t wake up and smell the corporate greed, we need to kick our politicians into caring about middle and lower income folks again. Check out Public Citizen’s extensive research on the TPP and share this video on the “Dirtiest Trade Deal You Never Heard Of.” Right now TPP supporters are counting on the fact that no one quite knows what this deal is, and we need to change that. If enough people get loud and angry about this, we can still stop it.

Let’s get to work.

Header Image Credit

Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

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