Ten years ago the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could probably have been passed into international law, quietly and in secret. A decade into the 21st century, however, information, varying in accuracy, pours across the world through wireless access. Although the mainstream media has had nothing to say about the TPP, Wikileaks has provided the text of the proposed agreement, and people are gathering in protest.
A letter from 180 members of the House from Tea Partier Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to progressive John Lewis (D-GA) oppose President Obama’s request for Fast Track, an authority which would let the president negotiate and sign the TPP before Congressional debate. Fast Track would allow Congress only an up-and-down vote.
Negotiators for TTP will meet in Salt Lake City (UT) next week, and protesters plan to be present. Communities are passing resolutions opposing the changes in law from TTP that harms them. December 3 will see a global day of protest against toxic trade agreements, and two members of the Australian Parliament will submit a request on that day to make the text of TPP public.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an agreement being negotiated behind closed doors by representatives of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, and Australia. It proposes to control “international obligations and enforcement mechanisms for copyright, trademark and patent law.” Until the Wikileaks made the document public, only 700 representatives of corporations–TTP’s author–had access to the text. No governments would have been to read it until given an up-or-down vote, and the public has been permitted little or no input in the final version.
Scary content of TPP:
Restricted Internet use: “Authors, performers, and producers of phonograms have the right to authorize or prohibit all reproductions of their works, performances, and phonograms, in any manner or form, permanent or temporary (including temporary storage in electronic form).” Currently, computers use temporary copies to buffer videos, store cache files to ensure websites load quickly, etc. Anyone viewing a temporary version on the computer would most likely be liable to TPP infringement.
Limited access to medicine: Access to affordable medications would drastically shrink, while pharmaceutical companies would greatly profit if consumers were not able to buy competing low-cost companies’ medications. These measures have never been seen before in U.S. trade agreements. The proposals would control countries’ laws on patents and medical test data, extending pharmaceutical monopolies on cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS drugs especially in the Asia-Pacific region. TPP would also create more difficulty for additional generic drugs in the pharmaceutical markets.
Extended patent protections to surgical methods: Patent protections to surgical methods, currently allowed to be excluded under World Trade Organization framework, would be lengthened. TPP makes patent protections’ exceptions to only “surgical methods you can perform with your bare hands,” according to Burcu Kilic, legal counsel to Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program.
Longer copyright term protections: Currently copyright term protections are defined by individual countries but capped at the life of the author plus 50 years. TPP could force longer copyright terms to life of the author plus 70 years for individuals “and either 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation for corporate-owned works (such as Mickey Mouse).” Economists and law scholars believe that “the optimal length of copyright is at most seven years.”
The requirement for Internet Service Providers (ISP) to police copyright violations: An analysis stated:
“The TPP wants service providers to undertake the financial and administrative burdens of becoming copyright cops, serving a copyright maximalist agenda while disregarding the consequences for Internet freedom and innovation.”
Three-strike rules would require ISPs to terminate users’ Internet access after three allegations of copyright infringement; require ISPs to filter online communications for possible instance of copyright infringement; oblige ISPs to block websites that may be engaged in copyright infringement; and potentially force ISPs to reveal identities of alleged online copyright infringers to the entities that hold the copyrights in question.
Under the TPP, corporations would be in control; the agreement would supersede government laws and regulations. It has been described as “NAFTA on steroids,” referring to the trade agreement that gave oil and pharmaceutical companies control over Canadian regulations on offshore oil drilling, fracking, pesticides, drug patents and other issues.
Environmental regulations would be shredded while prices would skyrocket if the TPP were to become the law of the land. Although corporations claim that TPP is a trade agreement, that’s only a minor part. The rest of it includes “new investor safeguards to ease job offshoring and assert control over natural resources, and severely limit the regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare and more,” according to Lori Wallach in The Nation.
All countries would be forced to conform domestic laws and regulations to any TPP’s rules that are written by huge corporations. TPP even limits how governments spend tax dollars and prevents programs such as “Buy America” and other “Buy Local” movements. The TPP rules could be changed only if all countries agree, and it has no expiration date. Breaking any TPP rules could leave countries open to lawsuits before the organization’s tribunals. Under TPP corporations could sue governments.
NAFTA has already required governments to pay $350 million to corporations because of suits against toxic bans, land-use policies, forestry rules and more. Again, think of TPP as NAFTA on steroids. NAFTA and similar pacts has cost the United States more than 5 million jobs and led to the loss of more than 50,000 manufacturing plants. TPP would continue the bleeding of employment in this country.
TPP has proceeded in secret for the past five years. Public, press, and Congress have been prevented from knowing anything about its proceedings. Even Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), chair of the Senate committee with official jurisdiction over TPP, has been denied access to even U.S. proposals to the negotiations. But 700 corporate representatives serving as official U.S. trade advisers have full access to TPP texts and a special role in negotiations.
When challenged about the conflict with the Obama administration’s touted commitment to transparency, Trade Representative Kirk noted that after the release of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) text in 2001, that deal could not be completed. In other words, the official in charge of the TPP says the only way to complete the deal is to keep it secret from the people who would have to live with the results.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) pointed out in a letter to the White House:
“I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the administration’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States. I believe in transparency and democracy and I think the US Trade Representative should too.”
There’s much more wrong with TPP than its lack of transparency.