Pushback Continues Against the City’s Opposition to TPP Trade Deal


At their last meeting, the Davis City Council approved a resolution drafted by Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis and Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, calling on officials to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The resolution was approved 4-1, with Councilmember Rochelle Swanson in dissent.

Since then, there has been considerable pushback, with the former City of Davis Chief Innovation Officer, now with Sierra Energy and heading up the Chamber Government Relations Committee, Rob White noting “that the whole process by which the TPP discussion wound up on the Council Consent Agenda was anything but transparent, and appears to have been done in relative secrecy.”

Yesterday, the California Seed Association (CSA) Executive Vice President, Chris Zanobini, sent a letter to the City of Davis.  The CSA, is a nonprofit agricultural trade association which has served the seed industry since 1940, with over 100 members who are working in California’s seed industry across academia, seed production, distribution, plant breeding and allied industries.

Mr. Zanobini said, “The California Seed Association was notified that the Davis City Council at their May 24th meeting declared Davis a TPP-Free Zone. A number of CSA members contacted our office about this issue. Several topics addressed by the TPP including intellectual property rights, biotechnology and sanitary and phytosanitary regulations would greatly benefit the seed industry on both a local and national level.”

He continued, “We believe that the statement to declare Davis a TPP-Free Zone was premature and will most certainly impact many of our members with businesses located in the Davis community.”

While the council removed a declaration of Davis as a “TPP-Free Zone” from its resolution during the meeting, the phrase did appear in the draft of the resolution that went before council.  Councilmember Brett Lee, during his motion, modified the resolution to simply oppose the TPP.

Mr. Zanobini writes, “It is our understanding that seed businesses in Davis as well as the Davis Chamber of Commerce were not notified that the Council was addressing this issue. This action did not allow for enough time to properly assess the issue.”

He concludes, “We strongly urge the Council to revisit TPP at its next meeting. This action would allow CSA members and other affected businesses to participate in the discussion and democratic process.”

In the meantime, last week, the Chamber Board, in a letter from Chair Tamiko Gaines, Vice Chair Jason Taormino and CEO Christina Blackman wrote the council stating, “The Davis Chamber Board of Directors was made aware of a consent item that was included in the council meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 to declare Davis a TPP-Free Zone. The chamber board was surprised that this item was not shared in advance with the business community prior to being added to the agenda.”

The letter continues, “Making a statement against the Trans-Pacific Partnership is in direct opposition to the economic vitality and promotion of business growth in our city and region. Agriculture commerce is a growing industry in Davis, and is supported by our partners at UC Davis. A declaration such as this may have significant implications to our business community, potentially encouraging businesses to move their operations to a neighboring community that has not voiced opposition to the TPP. Therefore, we urge the council to consider readdressing this item to provide more time and opportunity for the business community and concerned citizens to weigh in.

“As a member business organization, the chamber works to represent the interests of the business community including informing our members of important topics that affect commerce. While we cannot rewrite what was decided at the council meeting, we would encourage an increased level of transparency and communication so together we can assure that the business community is well-informed, remains vibrant, and continues to thrive.”

The letter concludes, “The Davis Chamber of Commerce mission is to promote, support and advocate on the general economic vitality of the membership and quality of life for the community.”

As Rob White pointed out in his op-ed last week, there is a real impact to this resolution.  “UC Davis has for a number of years hosted a program called Seed Central, where a significant number of global seed companies meet monthly to work collaboratively on common objectives. And the City of Davis is a participating member.”

According to Seed Central’s website, “some 100 seed and seed-related companies are located near UC Davis and benefit greatly from its proximity, but the influence of UC Davis extends throughout the USA and far beyond.”

Mr. White pointed out, “Many of these same companies are also members of ASTA — the American Seed Trade Association. And ASTA’s website indicates that the organization has been actively working on passage of the TPP as an agreement that supports the seed and agricultural industries.”

He added, “Even more to the point would be that agricultural researchers at UC Davis released a study in November 2015 that supported TPP. Daniel Sumner, an ag economist and Director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center (part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which are located on 2nd Street in Davis), with the help of UC ANR researchers Hyunok Lee and William A. Matthews, released a study for the university’s Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics that stated “the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact could be significant for California, lowering import barriers and enabling more of the state’s agricultural products to be sent to Japan and other nations.” Sumner also observed that “better access to imports from TPP countries would give U.S. consumers more spending power, and thus could increase domestic demand for California farm products.””

He concludes this point with “not only didn’t the City Council check in with businesses, they seem to have completely forgotten that agricultural partners and UC researchers right in Davis are also part of this conversation.”

The letter by the CSA drives this point home clearly.  Many believe, at a time when Davis is looking to expand its economic development reach, this resolution, advisory and symbolic in its nature, has actually done more harm than anticipated.

The question now is whether there is anything the council can or should do to change this.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will

    A declaration such as this may have significant implications to our business community, potentially encouraging businesses to move their operations to a neighboring community that has not voiced opposition to the TPP. “

    While I am all for transparent communication and feel it would have been good to have a conversation that involved all potentially involved members of the community ( business included), I am wondering if this is a realistic concern. How likely would it be that a business, previously content with its location in Davis, would decide on the basis of this CC declaration to more its business to a “neighboring community that has not voiced opposition to the TPP.” This sounds like hyperbole to me, but then I am not a local business owner and may not understand the full implications.

    I invite Rob or anyone else with insight to educate me on how likely this action would be. If it is felt likely, then one would also have to consider how likely it would be that someone who opposes the TPP would be to move their enterprise here because the city had advanced a position favorable to their point of view.

    1. Napoleon Pig IV

      It seems unlikely that anyone would move their business in reaction to a symbolic vote by the CC such as this one. However, a business might well decide to invest in expansion elsewhere. And, a business considering a new location would not be impressed by the likely regulatory and bureaucratic entanglements it might encounter in a city whose CC postures on global issues rather than effectively addressing local ones.

  2. nameless

    This just highlights for me the need for the City Council to stay out of federal issues, which are often highly complex and not well understood, except in the rare instance proposed federal legislation would bear DIRECTLY on the city, e.g. oil being transported via rail cars that run directly through the downtown.  Federal issues generally are not within the purview of the City Council.  I also have to wonder why the City Council would waste their time and that of city staff to weigh in on a federal issue that has really nothing to do with local issues – don’t they already have enough to do?

    Tia Will: “I invite Rob or anyone else with insight to educate me on how likely this action would be.

    This city is typically anti-business, and this is just one more example of it.

    1. The Pugilist

      To me this isn’t a federal issue.  This is actually an issue that has a good deal of bleed down to the local.  The problem that the council forgot is that Davis is a research university community and TPP opposition goes against a good deal of the university’s mission here.

  3. Frankly

    This issue is over the pay grade of the members of the city council… and way over the heads of the activists demanding the action.

    What is really idiotic about this… US agriculture business tends to benefit from these trade agreements.

    But hey, the careers of our local ambitious politicians are more important.

    1. The Pugilist

      Even when I agree with you on an issue you make ridiculous comments.  Ambitious politicians?  Other than Dan and maybe Lucas, the council isn’t politically ambitious.

      1. Frankly

        I think this was maybe a give away from the other four members of the CC to one that needs all the help he can get in his race for higher office.

        1. David Greenwald

          Frankly: Your comments makes no sense. Rochelle voted no. You really think Robb and Brett were motivated to support this to help Dan, really? And Lucas has his own reelection to worry about. I don’t buy this line.

    2. Topcat

      What is really idiotic about this… US agriculture business tends to benefit from these trade agreements.

      Yes, and businesses like Boeing, Caterpillar, Deere, and many others that export machinery and equipment would also tend to benefit.  The people who are employed by these types of companies would also benefit as would the stockholders which include many people who have retirement accounts that are invested in various stock funds.

  4. Frankly

    What is the downside to these trade agreements?

    Really the only thing is the loss of manufacturing jobs.

    One other thing that is not really a problem is the perception of a growing gap between the well-off and the less well-off.  Because those lucky enough to have holdings in the companies that leverage the opportunities for open trade will obviously benefit.

    But the working class tends to live paycheck to paycheck and tend to not have holdings in these companies.

    So the left-leaning knee jerk reaction is to either oppose the trade agreements (because of the connection to union labor) or to demand higher taxes to redistribute more of that wealth advantage for those with holdings.

    But neither works because companies in a global economy will just relocate their entire operation to other countries that have a lower business tax rate.  And others will just keep their foreign profits in foreign lands with a lower business tax rate.

    So what is the solution?

    1. Enact policies for more working class to have holdings.  Provide tax incentives for more IRAs and 401ks

    2. Reduce business tax and regulations that cause business to locate overseas with incentives to get them to invest in this country where they will hire Americans.

    3. Enact right-to-work legislation that breaks the union chokehold on so many labor areas casing unsustainable labor rates.

    4. Crack down on unfair competition from our global trading partners.

    5. Crack down on industrial espionage that steals so much American intellectual capital.

    You might hate Trump the person, but these are his ideas.

  5. Marina Kalugin

    and, for those who need some REAL lessons on finances and why the TPP is not going to help anyone except…you guessed it …the same ones all these programs help….. I would recommend reading such magazines as Forbes and Business Week…

    also AAI (if you don’t know that that is, you are obviously not a subscriber…

    google Motley Fool and read the info on their website…if you really want to understand, you can pay for their several hundred dollar “programs” to try to educate the numnums so that they could also become one of the top  1- 2 or even 5 -10%

    for those who flunked Econ or never even took it,   pull out those ancient books gathering dust…no common core needed.

    basic econ, financials and accounting priniples have not really change a TON>>.over the years….though I prefer making of the newer writers…of books like the the 4 hour work week…

    sounded good at the time….it is now at least 2 decades old….I bet I will have time to read THAT when I retire..   LOL


  6. Marina Kalugin

    it is truly funny when the council actually does something which makes sense, then those who are on the other side get their panties in a bunch……on the other side, we have the “they didn’t give us time to discuss ad nauseum”…..don’t your fill in the blank agenda group have someone watching the consent calendar….tsk tsk tsk…they would be posting….we chose the city council members and they did nothing wrong, if they slipped something by which “they” wanted…. those same people could be calling recall if the council did something they didn’t like….yep, that is politics in this town… for a change I LIKE what the council did….way to go guys…

  7. Justice4All

    Im glad the council has done this. The TPP would be awful for all the things I care about. Transparency in government, workers rights, environmental justice, buy local initiatives etc, civil liberties etc.

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