FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Inside the TPP: Trading People for Profit

A new addition to the growing number of “free trade” agreements (FTAs) took center stage last Monday as the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries announced the conclusion of a mammoth “trade” deal that covers more than 60% of the global economy.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement has drawn strong opposition from countries involved in the negotiations as well as from people’s organisations around the world. It is deemed as a US-conceived treaty that is part of its pivot to Asia in an attempt to maintain its economic clout and counter the rise of China.

Why so secret?

Like all other FTAs, the TPP is negotiated behind closed doors—only corporate advisors and lobbyists are given exclusive access to the text. In 2010, TPP member states agreed not to release the negotiating text until four years after an actual agreement has been made and/or abandoned.[i] This elicits the obvious question—why keep it a secret? What is in the text that compels negotiating governments to hide it away from public scrutiny?

Here’s a hint: the only way to complete the deal is to keep it hidden from the very people who would have to live with its consequences.

The ISDS and expanding corporate rights

Often dubbed as ‘NAFTA[1] on steroids,’ the TPP includes a scandalous clause on investment that would give enormous powers to corporations. Albeit negotiated in secret, leaked sections of the agreement indicate the TPP’s full endorsement of the notorious NAFTA corporate tribunals otherwise known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). [ii]

The ISDS is a dispute settlement modality that allows corporations and foreign investors to sue governments over actions perceived as detrimental to expected future profits.[iii] In other words, the TPP would grant corporations the right to file legal complaints against governments for policies inimical to profit-making such as raising the minimum wage or increasing the quality of basic social services as both actions would cost corporations more capital outlay and therefore less profit.

Under TPP rules, signatory countries would be obliged to conform their domestic policies, laws and regulations in accordance with the agreement. Any constitutional protection afforded by national laws would be wiped out to give way to greater corporate control.

Privatisation and diminishing state regulation

Based on the leaked drafts, it would also appear that one of the TPP’s key objectives is to diminish the state’s role in national development. Under the guise of “regulatory cooperation,” enormous pressure is coming from big US businesses that want to “level the playing field” between the private sector and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) citing the unfair advantage given to the latter.

SOEs play an important role in providing public goods to citizens at a cheaper price – all because of the preferential treatment and subsidy provided by the government. By regulating SOEs to comply with open market standards, procurement rounds would be overrun by big foreign corporations that can freely dictate prices for consumer goods and services. In addition, social services provided by SOEs that are deemed non-profitable would be disposed and/or opened to private sector acquisition. Ultimately under TPP conditions, SOEs will be privatized and their structure will be overhauled to align with commercial objectives, effectively subsuming any prior commitment to provide public service.[iv]

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and its impact on health, farming and internet freedom

Perhaps one of the most dangerous elements of the TPP is the section on IPR rules that contain far-reaching implications across sectors. For farmers, this would entail restrictions in the use of seeds that have patented materials. IPR rules will also extend medicine patent rights for up to 25 years enabling big pharmaceutical companies to monopolize the drug market and keep charging high prices without generic competition.[v] Lastly, the TPP provision on data privacy will severely limit internet freedom by compelling internet service providers to spy on user activity, and cut user access to common-generated content such as YouTube among others.[vi]

APEC Manila: A prelude for things to come

The APEC Ministerial meetings scheduled in Manila from 18-19 November comes as an opportune moment for the US and its cohorts to celebrate their recent victory with the signing of the largest ‘free trade’ agreement ever concluded worldwide in more than a decade. With the TPP now in place and more importantly, open to new members, APEC Manila is expected to serve as a victory lap that aims to encourage other APEC member countries to join this new trade pact. In effect, it becomes a prelude to cement a larger (or even an APEC-wide) trade deal that serves the interests of the US and its corporations.

At the eve of the APEC ministerial, people’s organisations, women, youth, indigenous peoples, migrants, workers, farmers and international activists will gather in Manila for the International Festival for People’s Rights and Struggles (IFPRS 2015) as part of a series of anti-APEC/TPP activities and protest actions to register the people’s demands for a socially just world.

As the experiences of the world’s poor and working class have shown, the TPP and other free trade agreements in the offing could only mean one thing: a new world trade disorder where corporate privileges continue to expand at the expense of people’s rights and welfare.

Notes.

[1] North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trade agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States creating a trilateral rules-based trade bloc in North America

WORKS CITED:

[i] Wallach, L. (2012, June 27). NAFTA on Steroids: The Transpacific Partnership would grant enormous new powers to corporations, is a massive assault on democracy. Retrieved from: http://www.thenation.com/article/nafta-steroids/

[ii] Krajewski, M. (2014). Modalities for investment protection and Investor- State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS) in TTIP from a trade union perspective. Brussels: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

[iii] Corporate Europe Observatory (2012). Profiting from injustice: how law firms, arbitrators and financiers are fuelling an investment arbitration boom. Brussels: Corporate Europe Observatory.

[iv] Kelsey, J. (2012, March 4). The Risks of Disciplines on State-Owned Enterprises in the Proposed Transpacific Partnership Agreement. Retrieved from: http://www.itsourfuture. org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Kelsey-TPP-SOE-paper.pdf

[v] Kelsey, J. (2011, October 22). Leaked Trans-Pacific FTA Texts Reveal US Undermining Access to Medicine. Retrieved from: http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/wp-content/ uploads/2011/10/TransPacific_RegCoherenceMemo.pdf

[vi] Public Citizen. (2014, October 16). The TPP’s New Plant-Related Intellectual Property Provisions. Retrieved from Public Citizen: https://www.citizen.org/documents/tpp-plant-related-ip-provisions.pdf

More articles by:

Mark Moreno Pascual (@makoypascual) currently works as Communications Officer for IBON International – a southern International NGO working for peoples rights and democracy. Before that, he spent some years doing research and advocacy with the progressive youth movement in the Philippines campaigning against tuition fee increases and for students rights and welfare.

March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
Renee Parsons
The Supreme Court and Dual Citizenship
Eric Draitser
On Ilhan Omar, Assad Fetishism, and the Danger of Red-Brown “Anti-Imperialism”
Elizabeth Keyes
Broadway’s “Hamilton” and the Willing Suspension of Reality-Based Moral Consciousness
David Underhill
Optional Fatherhood Liberates Christians From Abortion Jihad
Nick Pemberton
Is Kamala Harris the Centrist We Need?
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Bailouts, Bernie and the Washington Post
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Blackout
William Astore
America’s Senior Generals Find No Exits From Endless War
Jeff Hauser – Eleanor Eagan
Boeing Debacle Shows Need to Investigate Trump-era Corruption
Ramzy Baroud
Uniting Fatah, Not Palestinians: The Dubious Role of Mohammed Shtayyeh
Nick Licata
All Southern States are Not the Same: Mississippi’s Challenge
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Sly Encouragement of Lawless Violence
Cesar Chelala
Public Health Challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean
March 20, 2019
T.J. Coles
Countdown to “Full Spectrum Dominance”
W. T. Whitney
Re-Targeting Cuba: Why Title III of U.S. Helms-Burton Act will be a Horror Show
Kenneth Surin
Ukania’s Great Privatization Heist
Howard Lisnoff
“Say It Ain’t So, Joe:” the Latest Neoliberal from the War and Wall Street Party
Walter Clemens
Jailed Birds of a Feather May Sing Together
George Ochenski
Failing Students on Climate Change
Cesar Chelala
The Sweet Smell of Madeleine
Binoy Kampmark
Global Kids Strike
Nicky Reid
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: Requiem for a Fictional Party
Elliot Sperber
Empedocles and You and Me 
March 19, 2019
Paul Street
Socialism Curiously Trumps Fascism in U.S. Political Threat Reporting
Jonah Raskin
Guy Standing on Anxiety, Anger and Alienation: an Interview About “The Precariat”
Patrick Cockburn
The Brutal Legacy of Bloody Sunday is a Powerful Warning to Those Hoping to Save Brexit
Robert Fisk
Turning Algeria Into a Necrocracy
John Steppling
Day of Wrath
Robin Philpot
Truth, Freedom and Peace Will Prevail in Rwanda
Victor Grossman
Women Marchers and Absentees
Binoy Kampmark
The Dangers of Values: Brenton Tarrant, Fraser Anning and the Christchurch Shootings
Jeff Sher
Let Big Pharma Build the Wall
Jimmy Centeno
Venezuela Beneath the Skin of Imperialism
Jeffrey Sommers – Christopher Fons
Scott Walker’s Failure, Progressive Wisconsin’s Win: Milwaukee’s 2020 Democratic Party Convention
Steve Early
Time for Change at NewsGuild?
March 18, 2019
Scott Poynting
Terrorism Has No Religion
Ipek S. Burnett
Black Lives on Trial
John Feffer
The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Paul Cochrane
On the Ground in Venezuela vs. the Media Spectacle
Dean Baker
The Fed and the 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate
Thomas Knapp
Social Media Companies “Struggle” to Help Censors Keep us in the Dark
Binoy Kampmark
Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings
Mark Weisbrot
The Reality Behind Trump’s Venezuela Regime Change Coalition
Weekend Edition
March 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Is Ilhan Omar Wrong…About Anything?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail