How does one ensure their voice is heard and represented in government? What are the barriers in place which prevent the government from acting in the best interests of its people? How do we overcome these barriers? How do we achieve democracy? How do we hold our politicians accountable? How do we know what they are doing behind closed doors? Whose voices and interests are really represented in government? What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Corruption aside, an ideal government is made up of representatives elected by public vote and a court system with justices appointed by the President (in the US) and approved by elected representatives.
In the United States, the outline of the above system is still in place. The mechanics however, have been greatly co-opted and inverted. How have they been co-opted? We still have public elections, don’t we? Those elections aren’t rigged, are they? The public can still pick the candidate whom it feels will best represent them in office, can’t they? So how has the system been co-opted?
Monetary influence in government is one answer, but it goes far deeper than that; and the co-option is clever to the point where the extent of it is barely realized even by those who just want money out of politics. The co-option and inversion extend to those who control the Mass Media; A communications system, controlled by 5 major multinational corporations, which theoretically is supposed to keep the public informed about their country and the general world in which they live.
Have you ever heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? If your answer is “no” or “very little;” this communications system is failing in its theoretical mission.
In actuality, the purpose the media primarily serves is one of reasserting the main interests of those with real power in government. Secondly, it is to restrict the narrative of public discourse to one preferred by those with real influence in government. Thirdly, as it is the means through which the public hears about their choices for people to elect, it ensures only those people with the ability to raise the proper multitudes of funding can afford promotion on these communication networks.
Aside from the heads of the Mass Media itself, who hold plenty of vested interest in the current system, one can also look to the fossil fuel industry executives; or the conservative masterminds behind groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); or the CEOs of banks like JPMorgan Chase, or Bank of America, or Citibank, or Goldman Sachs; or the CEOs of the pharmaceutical industry; or the heads of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple; or the CEOs of weapons manufacturers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and General Electric; or the CEOs of the Prison Industrial Complex. The list of behind-the-scenes players (and their lobbyists) goes on forever. These are the same players involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and with it they want to expand their influence.
We have public elections. They are not rigged (in the traditional sense) and the voter is never forced to vote for any candidate. The beauty is how these things aren’t needed with the current co-option and inversion.
What we do have is far more clever, manipulated, subtle and as described before, the power in the United States’ democracy is far more spread out and resides in the hands of individuals far less in the public eye. The individuals being discussed here are those who have the money to fund the election campaigns of candidates they feel will represent their best interests after a public election to government office. They are the ones who can keep pumping money into government after elections to ensure the candidates they just helped get elected continue to legislate properly. Finally, they are the ones who can publicly and relentlessly shame a politician for not supporting their interests; by bringing out the dirt they have acquired on the individual.
The elections may be public but the politicians themselves are chosen carefully and then marketed. Thus we are given the illusion of choice as those with real power never really lose hold of the reins of our democracy. With the Trans-Pacific Partnership they may be able to sidestep even this.
There is a curious element to the above which probably seems hopeless and impossible to overcome: In order for the above described democratic inversion to exist those with real power need to use a public electoral system to maintain their control as their control is based on the illusion of public choice. Even more curious is how under this inversion, should the public be self-organized around the important issues which actually threaten those at the top, the inversion can easily be undone.
We’re not at that point yet though; and might be about to get a whole lot worse…
Enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
This is a deal being negotiated in complete secret and has been in development for around a decade now. Those with access to and influence in its negotiations flaunt it as a “free trade” agreement. This is deceptive though as only 5 of its total 29 chapters have anything to do with trade.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is actually a massive corporate power grab which involves a great many of the countries bordering the Pacific Rim. Those it will not involve, initially, are being provided for as the TPP will include a “docking” agreement to allow for others to join later. Any country involved in the deal will be obligated to follow a set of economic and legal rules which further benefit a handful of corporations. Even without the TPP these involved corporations are already the most influential in the US government and the rest of the world. If passed the TPP will affect 40% of the global economy.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a complete secret certainly from the public, but also a complete secret from the United States congressional representatives who will eventually be voting on it. It’s hard to get more undemocratic than that.
Possibly the most difficult part of explaining the Trans-Pacific Partnership is conveying the idea that it’s real, and not a giant conspiracy theory…
The TPP can only be described as a Global Corporate Coup.
The “Neo-Liberal Model”
The idea of a Global Corporate Coup is eccentric to say the least. It sounds like extreme left-wing propaganda, truth be told. Nevertheless, the TPP can also be categorized under something else called the “neo-liberal model.” This is something which has been underway for several decades. It is also an idea which is somewhat unknown to US citizens. In fact, in the US it doesn’t have a name because the US doesn’t recognize that it exists (neither the media, nor politicians ever discuss it). In America the “neo-liberal model” is just thought of as being pro-business. And what’s wrong with business, right? It’s good for the economy! It creates jobs! You can’t go wrong! Nevertheless, this “model” is something which is a recognized agenda in just about every other effected part of the world.
How does it work…
Basically, corporations (the big fat cats, not small-businesses like “mom and pops”) attack the only two institutions that have any possibility of counter-balancing their power: unions and government.
It’s effect on unions is to reduce the number of them, reduce the cost of labor, increase productivity and globalize.
The attack on the government is very obvious, especially in the US: Decrease taxes on the wealthy, decrease social spending, deregulate environment, deregulate trade, deregulate labor and deregulate politics (i.e. citizens united, etc). You also privatize government jobs.
How bad is US economic inequality? How bad is our poverty rate? Where do you think these two symptoms come from?
The neo-liberal model is promoted by saying: if you help us in our attack on unions and government our profits will increase, investment will increase, jobs will increase, wages will increase, our quality of life will increase, we’ll have a trade surplus and we’ll go hand-in-hand into the sunset.
What’s really happened: We have an economic crisis, we have an environmental crisis, and we have a political crisis. It all stems from this neo-liberal model, long underway, which is essentially a corporate power grab.
(Harris) <--This is an end-note to a video link at the bottom.
NAFTA, on steroids
As established, The TPP is not the first of its kind. Rather it’s just the next step in the “neo-liberal model.” Furthermore, it is being based on another corporate power grab; one called the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In fact the TPP has been nicknamed “NAFTA, on steroids.”
Under NAFTA national sovereignty was blurred. How?
Under NAFTA companies cannot sue their own governments in international investor-state dispute resolution tribunals. In English, this means a company cannot sue its own government for violating rules established in an international trade agreement. There are ways around this though… Offshoring.
Example: The Canadian company Lone Pine (headquartered in Alberta, Canada) wanted to frack in Canada but was not allowed to because of a Canadian moratorium against fracking. As such they wanted to sue the Canadian government for an investor-state dispute resolution. You can’t sue your own government under international trade agreement rules, though… so, what did they do? Simple; they used the offshore corporate haven in Delaware (that’s the US) where they were incorporated and thus claimed to be a United States company; easy enough.
Lone Pine’s notice of intent: “Lone Pine is suing under NAFTA for the arbitrary, capricious, and illegal revocation of the enterprise’s valuable Right to Mine for oil and gas underneath the St. Lawrence River by the Government of Quebec without due process…” (Soloman)
Note how they actually sued for their “Right to Mine.” Apparently, they can do that using trade agreement rules. A similar instance happened when another company wanted to use toxic chemicals which had been banned in Canada. They sued under NAFTA rules in the same investor-state dispute resolution tribunal… and won. They were in turn awarded settlement money, allowed to use their toxic chemicals and they were actually issued an apology from the Canadian government as well. Doleck full talk at Columbia
Multinational corporations use the flimsy rules in place for incorporating in different countries. They then turn around and say they are a corporation from that country and can then sue whatever government they need to. Mind you, there is no limit to the number of countries a corporation can be incorporated in (this is how they become multinational, with no allegiance to any country at all).
These law suits do not take place in the traditional court system of any country either. They take place in international tribunals where they appear in front of arbitration boards where the rules of trade agreements are adhered to more than the laws of any country. One such arbitration board is called the ICSID. Countries which sign on to use these arbitration boards to settle disputes get to appoint judges to the board. The US, for example, is a big country so they can appoint a lot of judges. 7 of the 8 judges they appointed to ICSID are corporate lawyers who specialized in representing corporations in disputes against governments. The other judge is a trade lobbyist who works for an international business organization that specializes in a lot of things for these trade agreements.
As can be expected, based on the the way these arbitration boards are set up and what set of rules they follow; Corporations invariably win all the time. In fact, hundreds of millions of dollars have been awarded to corporations and there have been over 200 cases heard by ICSID. Of those only two have been open to the public.
Understand; the idea of a free-trade agreement is to expand as much trade as possible to maximize profit. The idea of the investment chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is to encourage as much foreign investment as possible.
Some things offered in the chapter are a “guarantee to a minimum standard of treatment,” and “fair and equitable treatment.” These are both extremely vaguely worded provisions included in NAFTA and other trade agreements as well. These and other provisions essentially function as standstills on regulations. Any new law or policy, such as a regulation to the natural gas industry, can be claimed to violate the predictable regulatory environment of an investor. Basically, an investor expects certain profits from wherever they have put money in speculation. Any new law or policy which negatively influences their speculation will violate the predictable regulatory environment of their speculation. They can then sue for this infringement.
Thus when an investor claims this standard has been violated they are then offered this investor-state dispute. They are then able to sue the government in a private tribunal which follows the rules of the trade agreement (under whose rules they are suing) for unlimited cash compensation. Investors have claimed this time and time again; and they have won.
Now the obvious question: how could any country be forced into this position? What about their national sovereignty? You can’t just walk in and use some flimsy rule to claim you’ve lost money at the expense of government’s laws. That’s ridiculous! True; but national sovereignty is overruled once the country has signed a law into the books which infringes on their sovereignty. When a country signs a trade agreement chances are there is something in that agreement which will infringe on their sovereignty. The next question is: how does it get voted into law? That answer comes later. Here’s a hint though: fast-track (making things even more undemocratic).
NAFTA on Mexico and jobs
TPP is being called “NAFTA, on steroids” so now it’s time to discuss NAFTA a little bit. NAFTA is a trade agreement which includes, Canada, the United States and Mexico. NAFTA was sold to the American people as a way of fixing cross-border problems with Mexico. They said it was something that would stabilize the economy on both sides of the border; in addition to the flow of immigrants. Watch a debate on NAFTA between Al Gore (in favor of NAFTA) and Ross Perot (opposed to NAFTA).
NAFTA, in fact, did nothing but exacerbate the problems mentioned above. For starters keep in mind Mexico’s economy was one based, in large part, on farming. As a result of NAFTA, imported corn became cheaper than Mexican corn putting Mexican farmers out of business. It made subsidized agriculture, and subsidized tortillas (so people could eat), illegal in Mexico. Farms collapsed and you had tons of people with nowhere to go. Some went to the cities, some to the Maquiladora region, some to produce goods to ship across the border. Many though came to the US to work as undocumented workers.
“Between 1985 and 1989 approximately 80,000 immigrants came to the US from Mexico annually. Between 1990 and 1994 approximately 260,000 immigrants came across annually. Between 1995 to 1999 400,000 came across annually. Then grew to 485,000.”
(Side note: if you want to fix the problems with immigration from Mexico to the US you don’t institute band-aid immigration reforms in the United States. You help Mexico’s economy as NAFTA devastated it. Undocumented workers don’t come to America because of the prosperity or for the “wonderful country” it is. Undocumented workers come to America to send money home to their families because their economy was destroyed by a trade deal our politicians encouraged. Also note; the border became militarized after NAFTA because more cross-border issues were expected.)
NAFTA cost the US 700,000 jobs.
Jobs, the TPP and Globalization
Let’s discuss minimum wages now. The US minimum wage is $58/day; in Malaysia (who is in TPP) it is $8.70/day; in China (not in TPP, yet): $4.59/day. Vietnam though takes the cake with $2.23/day. Vietnam is one of the most important countries in the TPP partially because, they are the low wage alternative to China. That’s right, exploitation is such a hobby for these corporate fat cats there is actually a “low wage alternative” to $4.59/day, China; which is $2.23/day, Vietnam.
(For quick perspective: In China there is an assemblage plant for Apple products called Foxconn where the workers labored under such horrible conditions and such horrific pay they actually started committing suicide rather than continue working. Foxconn would not have this though. Did Foxconn improve conditions? Did Foxconn give them better pay? No. Foxconn instead placed suicide nets around the exterior of the building to catch workers attempting suicide to keep them alive and then get them back to work.)
(The corporations involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership think the workers at Foxconn are paid too much and would prefer the wages given to the workers exploited in Vietnam.)
Why is Vietnam so low? In Vietnam, workers have no labor rights and no right to form independent unions. There are restrictions on strikes as well. Vietnam’s communist party code allows for strikes but imposes strict and cumbersome conditions that must first be met; effectively nullifying the strike. This is the case even if you are in a state workers’ union (a workers’ union tied to the communist party there). This was reported by Human Rights Watch.
In Vietnam, goods are produced by child and forced labor, especially in the Apparel export industry (the largest export sector in Vietnam; second largest exporter to the United States after China). If you are trying to form an independent union in Vietnam expect to be jailed, sent to the education camps, harassed and more. It is one of the worst places in the world to try and organize independent unions.
Through TPP Vietnam will be used to export our jobs to and reduce our wages.
Another country entering the TPP is Japan; a highly industrialized country. In our trade deficit from ’09 to 2012, Japan increased. This meant 130,000 US jobs were lost.
A study was done to forecast what would happen when the TPP goes into effect. It looked at what the impact of reduced tariffs was and what currency manipulation will do… (Japan is manipulating its currency). Ultimately, the impact will be 91,500 jobs lost just in the auto and auto parts industry alone. This was discovered by way of observing how the value of the Japanese yen has decreased by 30% in the last 8 months. As such in the last 8 months goods we export to Japan were 30% more expensive and goods they export to the US were 30% cheaper. This change in price is incentive for corporations to change where they create jobs to produce their goods. The fact that this overseas job creation means a loss of jobs for workers in one country is secondary to corporate profits.
Back to the neo-liberal model; we produce more but pay less. We’ve had a clear decline in union representation. This is a direct result of corporate attacks and globalization. The difference between the wages we earn now and the wages we would have earned if jobs and wages increased with productivity since the 70′s, is more than $500/week=$2500/worker (avg).
That extra 500 has gone towards profits. Since the 70′s is when we’ve seen union membership drop, it’s also when we see the US go from a surplus in trade to a country with a deficit (we became a debtor). There was a major deficit especially following NAFTA as well. From 1999-2010 there was a change in US multi-national corp jobs as multinationals reduced US employment by 1,000,000 and increased employment in controlled foreign affiliates by 3,000,000.
Entering China into the World Trade Organization (WTO) cost the US 2.7 million jobs (net).
TPP will exacerbate our economic crisis, our democracy crisis, investor-state disputes will undermine everything we’ve worked for in labor, in environment, in health, in safety, and in the effectiveness of our democracy.
People are opposing TPP all around the world.
(Also note: In the 2008 financial crash one of the reasons it was felt so globally was because of restrictions which had been imposed on Capital Controls through Free Trade agreement Globalization. To explain briefly Capital Controls are measures in place which regulate the flow of currencies across borders from one country to another. One of the reasons China was not hit as hard by the 2008 crash was because of the Capital Controls they had in place. Now with regards to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the author of the book In Defense of Globalization joined with a great deal of other economists who were originally in favor of free trade to speak out against the lax rules on Capital Controls in the TPP. This means the author who “wrote the book” on globalization, along with many other economists, spoke out against certain elements of the globalization involved in TPP).
Overview of TPP itself
Who has access to the text of TPP? The corporations do, of course. How many of them though? All of the over 600 corporate advisors who can benefit from it for certain. Some of those include Pfizer, Monsanto, National Coal Council, Halliburton, Chevron, GE, etc. Who doesn’t have access? The Sierra Club and other environmental groups are kept in the dark. The Obama administration does have access to the text as the Obama administration is pushing for it.
Does congress have access to the text? They will be voting on it so they should have access, right? No. Only one congressman has managed to gain access to the text, and that’s because he made a stink about it: Representative Alan Greyson. The problem is he was not allowed to take notes about it, he was given a limited amount of time to read it, and he couldn’t say anything about it besides “this is a punch in the face to the middle class.” Other congressman have no access and recently starting showing their discontent. Also read this.
And check this:
Obviously the public has no access either.
Which countries are involved in the TPP: the United States, Australia, Brunai, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Japan wants to join, if they have not already by the time this blog was written, and The United States wants China to be involved as well.
What’s in the TPP?
Earlier it was discussed how the TPP and other Trade Agreements are really just corporate power grabs. Corporations use free-trade agreements as back-door mechanisms to make sure they can get these things approved. When corporations realize they have lost in local, state, and federal governments they turn to trade agreements to get those things through.
“TPP is a trojan horse for non-traditional polices, many of which are rejected in state legislatures, and in congress.” – Alisa Simmons
“What I see is a bunch of non-trade stuff, specific to public services, the corporations want to take over. Of the 29 chapters only 5 actually deal with trade matters.” – Alisa Simmons
The only traditional trade things in TPP are market access for foods, customs, trade expropriation, capacity building, and trade revenue subsidies. Other topics discussed in the “non-trade” chapters of TPP are things like government procurement, investment, services, financial services, intellectual property, visas, temporary movement of natural persons (which sounds like immigration in a trade agreement), regulatory coherence, competition policy, labor, supply chains, the environment, transparency…
From a different perspective, as this is being poised as a trade deal (and 24 of its 29 chapters don’t deal with trade), the TPP can actually be viewed as a trade agreement made up primarily of earmarks to destroy the public sector, democracy and 40% of the global economy.
“On top of all the things we know aren’t really about trade there are 3 mystery chapters they wont tell anyone about. They wont even tell us the titles of it. They wont list them anywhere!” – Alisa Simmons
There’s also an Intellectual property chapter in TPP which impacts medicines and is also a backdoor method to get parts of SOPA passed and destroy internet freedom.
In TPP there are provisions to give greater property rights to foreign firms and put limits on financial regulations. There are also provisions which would ban “Buy American” and “Buy Local.” On top of that the food we eat will be impacted as well. Most US food that’s imported doesn’t meet standards already. About 1% of the food that comes in actually gets inspected. We currently get food from countries which we know have really bad histories when it comes to exporting their food. Vietnam has one of the worst records for food safety and all of a sudden we’re about to get a whole bunch of shellfish in from Vietnam, that food is going to be coming into a system that is already under-regulated.
Chilling effects of TPP and Trade Agreement lawsuits
Earlier the idea of investor-state disputes was discussed. Arbitration boards and the use of the offshoring was discussed and how corporations become multinational through flimsy requirements for incorporation. To get a little more in-depth these investor-state disputes take corporations and raise them to the level of actual countries. How does it do so? Well, a person can’t sue for lost profits or lost potential profits. Corporations can under trade agreement rules. Furthermore, when a corporation sues a country for the profits they lost because they can’t do something they take our tax dollars to fund their profit because they don’t want to abide by that country’s laws.
“Around the world over $3.5 billion in taxes globally have been given to corporations who don’t want to obey health laws, and environmental laws primarily.” – Alisa Simmons
Remember the US-based/Canadian-based company which sued Canada for a moratorium that infringed on their “Right to Mine” in a Quebec town. Under NAFTA it’s established this can happen again and again. Once you open this up to many other countries around the world however, the implications of lawsuits are frightening.
The same impact would be seen from GMO labeling. In many states there are growing movements to label foods. Eventually, one of them will pass a bill and labels will start appearing in stores. Logically, most people will not choose the GMO food if the two options are sitting next to each other and the price difference is not large. This will likely result in a lawsuit from Monsanto. True, in some of these lawsuits the plaintiff would win and in some they would lose, but it would also have a chilling effect:
If these governments realize they will be sued for passing said bills they may become reluctant to pass a bill even if the public wants it because they don’t want to hurt the economy.
Expansion of exports of Natural gas
The first 5 mins of this talk center around the threats of fracking under NAFTA and TPP.
After hearing so much about investor-state disputes it’s logical to assume any discussion of Natural Gas exports and the TPP would have to deal with corporate retaliation against bans and moratoriums on fracking. Though that is something to consider, the issue here is actually with the Department of Energy’s requirement to do a Public Interest Determination prior to any exportation of natural gas.
What is a Public Interest determination? This is a process where the Department of Energy must weight the economic and environmental impacts of natural gas exports. Furthermore, it is really critical to being able to build and deliver energy policy. Regardless of how effective the procedure is (as they have approved of the first export terminal), having the process is important.
“Consistent with the free-trade model (which is deregulation), US law states that this whole process of doing a Public Interest Determination (just an analysis to look at the implications of natural gas exports) is waived for any country with which the United States has signed a free-trade agreement that calls for something called ‘multinational treatment for trade and gas.’ We understand the TPP includes this.” – Ivana Soloman
As such exports are automatically deemed in the public interest and it becomes illegal to condition, deny or delay any permit requirement. This is even more important when discussing TPP because Japan is the largest natural gas importer in the world. Ultimately, this could create enormous strain for more exports as there are also plans to build a great deal more export terminals across the United States.
Even from a non-legal perspective, consider the implications of the greenhouse effects from this and the ramifications of pipelines from this (which could leak).
We can end the AIDS pandemic in the next 30 years:
“If we get a cohort of people who are HIV positive onto particular medications, it will be almost impossible for them to spread the virus, and if they can’t spread the virus, then eventually we bend all curves. Deaths go down and so do new infections. In about 30 years if we get enough people onto these medications we can actually see AIDS as something like Polio. There will be a couple thousand cases around the world of people living with AIDS but we will have more than enough money to provide treatment to them and there will be no new infections.” The cover of The Economist (June 2011) provides proof of this. – Jennifer Flynn
The above is true but it’s dependent on one key issue which is threatened under TPP; The availability of generic medications which cost significantly less than patented medications.
“Getting medications to developing countries is an issue dependent entirely on price. We have medications that can treat AIDS and people don’t have access to them just because of the price. You may have heard other reasons like ‘people don’t know how to adhere to them’ or ‘there are supply issues in some countries.’ Don’t believe this. The driver is price.” – Jennifer Flynn
Let’s compare the prices shall we…
AIDS medications first-line treatment started out over $10,000 per patient per year. Through generic competition, over the span of a decade, that price dropped by 99% to an estimated $140 per patient per year. Second-line treatments are more than two times the cost of first-line treatment. The lowest price for a third-line regiment is $2000, as compared to $140 on the first-line treatment. When looking at the newest medicine the price is about 14 times the primer.
For a detailed explanation of what “first/second/third-line treatments” are check this link. Basically, a second-line treatment is a treatment which comes out when the first-line treatment has failed. Accordingly, third-lines come out when the second-line has failed. Furthermore, as they are new drugs coming out when the previous version failed it makes sense that the newer version will cost more money. More research goes in, a higher price comes out.
Developing and poorer nations depend on generic medications. Many major international treatment providers rely on quality, affordable generic medications. Lower prices are not as profitable, though. Enter patents and other intellectual property barriers to keep medical prices high.
What is a patent?
Essentially it’s government-inferred monopoly on a drug and they currently last 20 years. This means the price remains high and out of the hands of poor people for 20 years. One example of a generic drug is Acetaminophen, the cheaper generic version of Tylenol (the only difference is the name).
(Quick point: The United States has a long history of limiting access and keeping affordable medicines out of the hands of poor people. Think about how the privatized insurance system of the United States has worked thus far. If you can’t afford healthcare you’re screwed. Can’t afford a life-saving operation? You’re stuck with medical debt (that is if you are even granted the procedure). Mind you 62% of all bankruptcies in America are due to medical debt. Furthermore, America is the only developed nation in the world where the concept of medical debt even exists,. All other developed nations have some form of Universal Healthcare. If you are poor in America you don’t have good healthcare if you even pay for it in the first place. Also note, “Obamacare” or the Affordable Care Act is NOT Universal Healthcare AT ALL.)
We hear about the importance of intellectual property. We hear about the importance of protecting the pharmaceutical industries in their ability to continue developing medications. We hear about their need to make enough profit so as to continue to research and develop new types of medications which save lives. These are lies. Most new drugs are actually made by the government or universities; those entities are just bad at marketing so big pharma is given them instead to get them to the masses.
The TPP has provisions to seriously restrict generic competitions. Even scarier the TPP is being billed as a model for future trade agreements and is being negotiated with developed and developing countries. It also sets up standards which could be applied to other developing countries. The policies when taken together represent the most restrictive ever seen in a trade agreement and it’s horrible for access to medicine.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership rolls back internationally agreed upon public health safeguards already enshrined in multilateral agreements in the current standard of the Truth Agreement; and numerous other standards agreed upon by the US and by other negotiating countries.
One example of a rollback is in regards to pre-grant oppositions, which is any challenge by a third party to a patent before it’s been awarded. Second-line regiments are about twice as expensive as first-line regiments for HIV drugs. Prices for them have come down due to competition which has been secured through measures like pre-grant opposition. All countries have patent laws and patent systems and they have flexibility to apply that law as suited to their national context. Pre-grant opposition is extremely important to public health as in some cases fighting a patent is essential to supply the poor with affordable medications.
TPP will deny people the right to oppose patents before they are granted. Meaning, if you’re in a country and you need access to a medicine and you find out that country is about to issue a patent, you can’t go and protest the government. You can’t sue or make a case.
Currently, patents can last up to 20 years before the trial stage is done and medications become available for generic competition. Through a process in the TPP though called “ever greening” a small change to a drug can give a company the right to ask for another 20 year patent. With loopholes and clever uses of language like these you could end up having an 80 year patent on a drug.
The TPP would also make clinical trial data (discovered during the duration of the patent) corporate property for 12 years automatically, and that data itself would receive a patent. This is called Data Exclusivity. The TPP would also let drug companies sue government agencies that set reimbursement rates for public health programs if drug companies don’t like them.
Summary and What To Do
Now that we’ve explored all of these above issues (which are devastating in themselves) it’s important to realize this is just what we know from the small amount of the Trans-Pacific Partnership which has been leaked; and what we know from observing the effects of other trade agreements and international policies. Again the TPP is a 29 chapter-long trade agreement where only 5 of them actually deal with trade.
Now, how could the Trans-Pacific Partnership be stopped. You call you representatives and demand they vote “no” on “fast-track.” Why fast-track and not tell them to vote “no” on the TPP itself? Telling them to vote “no” on fast-track would be like throwing a wrench into the system.
Fast-Track is a method of passing a bill which is used when a bill would have no chance at passing were it sent to congress normally. Fast-Track gives members of congress 90 days to read over a bill and then has them vote “yes” or “no” on the bill. As they vote they are *not allowed* to edit ANY of the text within the bill AT ALL. Keep in mind this means they would be blindly voting on this bill with no prior knowledge of its contents as it has been negotiated in complete secrecy from them. If you thought the secrecy surrounding the bill made this undemocratic, fast-track makes it even less democratic.
President Obama, some other leaders of 11 or so countries and 600 corporate representatives have spent the last 8 years negotiating this bill in secret.
Should pressure be placed on congress by the public to vote “No” on Fast-Track the Trans-Pacific Partnership would then be sent through Congress and Congress would have the opportunity to adjust the bill to their liking. After they adjust the bill to their liking those adjustments would then have to be approved by every other country involved. After 11 years of negotiations it’s doubtful any new changes would be approved.
Also note, NAFTA was passed via fast-track and it’s not just a one time thing. If fast track is approved by Congress any bill which is then voted on can be passed through congress via fast-track. NAFTA was passed by fast-track, but fast-track remained in effect for at least 5 years, and the way bills were voted on under fast-track did not change. Note, not all legislation passed while fast-track is in effect is voted on with the fast-track rules. Some bills are voted on normally while fast-track is in effect, it’s just not used in those cases.
Click here to see the report on the Trans-Pacific Partnership by DemocracyNow!
Click the following links to learn more:
DemocracyNow! covers TPP a second time. (full transcript included)
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Source talks for information discussed in the content of the blog:
Alex Beauchamp, Food and Water Watch
Full TPP talk by hunter (Note: scroll to the end of this talk for one last speaker whose information I couldn’t fit into this blog. It is discussion on trade agreement influence in South America.)