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Light: global economic justice and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Presbyterians join call for fair trade, not just free trade

February 6, 2014

WASHINGTON

As the plummeting temperatures and winter storms of the last few weeks have reminded us, we are in the season of winter, when the world is at its darkest. This is the time when Earth orbits the sun in its widest arc, shortening the day and lengthening the night. For many, it is a time of searching for light.

And yet as Christians, we know that we are also in the Season of Epiphany. No other time of the liturgical year is more focused on light. During Epiphany Christ is present, born again among us, and Christ’s light illuminates the world. It guides, inspires and transforms those who seek it out. That is because it is hard to go back to seeing the world the same way we used to once we have seen it alight.

When Christ’s light shines in the darkness, the possibilities for a better earth are somehow more visible, for even the shadows are diluted by light. And that means that hunger, greed, and indifference are impossible to ignore any longer.

Most of you know the biblical stories. There are the “wise” men who ignore a powerful king to protect the life of a vulnerable baby boy. And then there is Christ, plunging into the depths of the Jordan and then rising up, showing us how the holy can wash over us and drench the world in peace and hope.

These stories remind us that in every age, the struggle for freedom from economic oppression, the struggle to shine light in the darkness, must be not simply a season but a way of life.

Our world is globalizing faster than most of us can grasp. Oddly enough, in this context of change and uncertainty, we find ourselves blindly trusting an anonymous “marketplace” to make decisions about what is produced and what it will cost, who will work and who will not, who will have bread and who will have none—or far too little. But we who have seen Christ’s light know that the ordinary machinations of the global economy should not impoverish people—from sweatshop workers in Asia to the many U.S. auto–workers whose lost jobs may well be gone abroad forever.

In this context, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is calling for light in very practical terms: asking for justice and transparency in the process of why and how the government negotiates trade agreements. While that may sound remote and complex, the implications of these agreements are very real for the lives of ordinary people, both here and abroad.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to which President Obama alluded in his recent State of the Union Address, is one such example. It is the biggest free trade agreement ever put forward, encompassing 40 percent of the global economy, and its contents are a well-kept secret.

For four years negotiations have been under way—with at least 600 corporate advisors having access to the text—yet, ordinary citizens and only a few Congressional representatives have seen the document, except for a few sections that have been leaked. Citizen debate has been virtually with rumors and leaks as our only source of information.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s global partners have asked us to join them in the holy work of economic reform tied directly to the TPP. Many members of the PC(USA) have responded to the call. More than 1,000 Presbyterians have sent letters to President Obama asking him to open up the TPP text and to create a more open process for trade negotiations.

Click here to send a message to your member of congress today asking them to support fair trade not free trade!

To read the article in Unbound—an interactive journal of Christian Social Justice—go to http://justiceunbound.org/carousel/living-as-children-of-light-global-economic-justice-and-the-trans-pacific-partnership

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