Don’t know much about the proposed 12-nation trade agreement, known as the TPP? A group of musicians, comedians and actors wants to put it on your radar.

Share story

A controversial, 12-nation trade agreement is making unusual bedfellows, both in Washington, D.C. and among artists.

This Friday, hip-hop musician Talib Kweli, actor Evangeline Lilly, punk-rock band Anti-Flag, comedian Hari Kondabolu and others will perform as part of “Rock Against the TPP” at Showbox SoDo to protest the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a Pacific Rim trade agreement that has been in the works for years but hasn’t been ratified by all the countries involved — including the U.S.

Organizers say their goal is simply to put the TPP, and an impending congressional vote to implement it, on people’s radars.

Concert preview

‘Rock Against the TPP’

5 p.m., Friday, Aug. 19, at Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave. S., Seattle; free ( or

“There are so many people out there who have kind-of heard about the TPP but don’t know what it is,” said Justin Sane, songwriter and lead guitarist for Anti-Flag, which will perform an acoustic set. “So that’s why we want to be out there getting loud and clear. It’s a so-called ‘free trade’ agreement negotiated behind closed doors for years between corporations, lawyers and lobbyists. When people learn what it actually is, they tend to be instantly against it.”

The show is free and will include workshops hosted by Lilly. Evan Greer, one of the show’s organizers, said it’s funded through a coalition of nonprofits, including the Sierra Club, and unions like United Steelworkers. Seattle is the third stop on what is, so far, a five-city tour, though Greer says other dates could be announced soon.

President Obama supports the TPP, calling it a foreign-policy “pivot” in the Pacific Rim that will level the economic playing field by lowering tariffs, and serve as a pressure point for other countries to improve human rights, labor protections and environmental standards.

But politicians from both parties — including Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — oppose the deal.

Lilly, an award-winning Canadian actor who has worked on TV and film projects from “Lost” to “The Hurt Locker” to “The Hobbit,” argues that the TPP is the opposite of what Obama describes. The agreement, she said, is a “corporate power grab” that allows multinational corporations to sue governments if issues like fair wages and clean water “get in the way of a foreign corporation’s ability to earn its maximum profits in your country.”

As an example, Lilly pointed to TransCanada’s $15 billion lawsuit against the U.S. over the Obama administration’s rejection of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, using arbitration rules in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as leverage.

The deal has drawn bipartisan opposition, she said, because “Democrats don’t want BP oil suing the American people for denying BP the right to drill off their shores, and Republicans don’t want any foreign corporation telling them what American domestic laws they will and will not honor.”

Justin Sane, the songwriter and lead guitarist for Anti-Flag, says the “Rock Against the TPP” kickoff show in Denver drew nearly 1,000 people. When it comes to issues like human rights and environmental protections, he added, “a trade agreement shouldn’t be the law of the land.”

“I believe in the American dream,” Lilly said. “I believe in equal opportunity for all. My grandfather fought in World War II. He was forever scarred by that. Those brave men and women were fighting for that dream, not fighting to build a nation in debt to multinational corporations. I owe it to Grandpa to fight this fight.”