TPP: A Massive Shadow Agreement

Michael Policy

There has been a lot of talk as of late about the TPP or Trans-Pacific Partnership. If you are out of the loop and don’t know what it is don’t worry- you aren’t alone. As of today nobody, save the large corporations and top level politicians, know what the TPP is actually about. Any details that we do know are vague or have been leaked by those in the inner circle. Which is especially telling given that this deal has been negotiated for ten years.

The Facts About the TPP

What we do know about the TPP- and the secrecy surrounding it- is enough to let the masses know that it won’t benefit them. In fact, it seems that the only people this trade agreement would benefit is the large corporations- many of them multi-national. During negotiations hundreds of representatives from large corporations had direct access whereas elected officials, and the public, had virtually none.

In addition to this, in the US, Congress voted to allow President Obama trade promotion authority, also known as ‘fast track.’ Meaning that there would be absolutely no possibility for members of Congress to amend or even discuss TPP before voting. The only option when the time comes is for members to vote for or against the agreement.

There are 12 nations that are included in the negotiations. Australia, Japan, Peru, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Canada, and the United States. These countries make up 40% of the world’s economy.

The TPP agreement includes chapters that put food safety standards, environmental protections, local labor laws, and internet privacy at risk. Through a new tribunal to be created through the TPP corporations would be able to challenge and sue governments if they feel that enacted laws or regulations limit their future profits. They can even challenge local court rulings.

That’s right, if a company feels that an environmental protection standard detracts from future profits then under this agreement they have the legal standing to go to the tribunal and challenge or sue. The tribunal’s ruling is final and its reach is global. This will have a direct impact on present, and future, legislation in regards to the aforementioned subjects.

Intellectual Property Changes in the TPP

The chapter that has caused the most turmoil is the chapter on intellectual property (IP). This chapter will have a drastic effect on the pharmaceutical industry, biological patents, internet services, the protection of whistle blowers and journalists, and the copyright industry. Besides guaranteeing an eight year monopoly for pharmaceutical companies who develop medicines, the IP section of the TPP generally pushes the rights of the end user aside and promotes the interests of big corporations. The agreement does this by merely suggesting balance between the two but never imposing it. This is apparent from a line in what is believed to be the final agreed upon draft (published by WikiLeaks), “endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance in its copyright and related rights system.”

For starters, copyright terms are getting lengthened. The new minimum length is life of the author plus 70 years, giving the length of a copyright the lifespan of 140 years. This new term extends copyright terms by 20 years. This is unnecessary given that the US Copyright Office has even suggested that the current copyright protections last too long.

Under the guise of free trade internet privacy may get a negative overhaul as well. The signatory nations all agree to not block cross-border transfers of data. The TPP removes the right for a country to require data be stored in their country in order for businesses to operate there. This boosts US companies who lead the way in the tech sector and data sharing. However, it is suspected that the NSA will get a healthy boost from this clause as well. With data being stored with American companies, within US borders, or not there will be fewer loopholes for US surveillance agencies to jump through.

Questionable Intentions

There are several more reasons why the TPP is a questionable free trade agreement. The fact that this is perhaps the only thing from Obama that Republicans have endorsed in 7 years, the narrow vote (nearly all republican) to give the TPP the fast track, and the incredible amount of secrecy where large corporations- not politicians- attended negotiations all leave doubts in people’s minds.

It’s suspected that at least some of the TPP clandestine operations is directly due to the Canadian elections scheduled for October 19th. Even though the TPP was agreed upon by the 12 nations on October 5th, the full text won’t be officially released until after the elections. This is seen as a direct ploy by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to hide the details of the agreement he has championed through his campaign until after the elections.

To highlight this, Stephen Harper invited Liberals and New Democrats via the Privy Council Office to view the free trade agreement. However, the offer was turned down because those present would be prohibited from sharing what they learned with the voters.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement about the briefing. When talking about why he refused to attend Mulcair said, “Every Canadian has the right to know what is in that trade deal before Monday. And I call on Stephen Harper to release the full text of the TPP  so Canadians can vote accordingly.”

As of publication of this article there is no set date for when the full text of the agreement will be released.

To have your voice be heard visit this Electronic Frontier Foundation post and support the cause.

 

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