Thursday, December 5, 2013

Corporate fascist PR “Fast Track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a Trade Pact That Could Be Worse Than NAFTA

Know much about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? If you don’t, it’s not your fault. That’s because this so-called “free trade” agreement is being negotiated in “extreme” secrecy by representatives of twelve different countries—the privately owned Corporations and State owned Enterprise representatives of United States, Japan, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore,  and Vietnam (who also control Laos and Cambodia). The Obama administration has ignored “repeated calls from legislators to make the process more transparent, while pressing to finalize the agreement this year.”






The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. The WikiLeaks release of the text comes ahead of the decisive TPP Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013. 

The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states. The TPP is the forerunner to the equally secret US-EU pact TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), for which President Obama initiated US-EU negotiations in January 2013. Together, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60 per cent of global GDP. Both pacts exclude China. Now you start to understand the tension in the region.  


Since the beginning of the TPP negotiations, the process of drafting and negotiating the treaty’s chapters has been shrouded in an unprecedented level of secrecy. Access to drafts of the TPP chapters is shielded from the general public. Members of the US Congress are only able to view selected portions of treaty-related documents in highly restrictive conditions and under strict supervision. It has been previously revealed that only three individuals in each TPP nation have access to the full text of the agreement, while 600 ’trade advisers’ – lobbyists guarding the interests of large US corporations such as Chevron, Halliburton, Monsanto and Walmart – are granted privileged access to crucial sections of the treaty text. The TPP negotiations are currently at a critical stage. 

The Obama administration is preparing to fast-track the TPP treaty in a manner that will prevent the US Congress from discussing or amending any parts of the treaty. Numerous TPP heads of state and senior government figures, including President Obama, have declared their intention to sign and ratify the TPP before the end of 2013. WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange stated: “The US administration is aggressively pushing the TPP through the US legislative process on the sly.” The advanced draft of the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter, published by WikiLeaks on 13 November 2013, provides the public with the fullest opportunity so far to familiarise themselves with the details and implications of the TPP. The 95-page, 30,000-word IP Chapter lays out provisions for instituting a far-reaching, transnational legal and enforcement regime, modifying or replacing existing laws in TPP member states. The Chapter’s subsections include agreements relating to patents (who may produce goods or drugs), copyright (who may transmit information), trademarks (who may describe information or goods as authentic) and industrial design. The longest section of the Chapter – ’Enforcement’ – is devoted to detailing new policing measures, with far-reaching implications for individual rights, civil liberties, publishers, internet service providers and internet privacy, as well as for the creative, intellectual, biological and environmental commons. Particular measures proposed include supranational litigation tribunals to which sovereign national courts are expected to defer, but which have no human rights safeguards.

The TPP IP Chapter states that these courts can conduct hearings with secret evidence. The IP Chapter also replicates many of the surveillance and enforcement provisions from the shelved SOPA and ACTA treaties. The consolidated text obtained by WikiLeaks after the 26-30 August 2013 TPP meeting in Brunei – unlike any other TPP-related documents previously released to the public – contains annotations detailing each country’s positions on the issues under negotiation. Julian Assange emphasises that a “cringingly obsequious” Australia is the nation most likely to support the hardline position of US negotiators against other countries, while states including Vietnam, Chile and Malaysia are more likely to be in opposition.

Numerous key Pacific Rim and nearby nations – including Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and, most significantly, Russia and China – have not been involved in the drafting of the treaty. In the words of WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange, “If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.” It's been New Word Order of the trinity of Global Control all along. Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei.

 

Draft text 

IP Resolutions: https://wikileaks.org/tpp/#start  
Meeting extract here: http://wikileaks.org/IMG/pdf/tpp-salt-lake-extracts-.pdf 
Meeting positions: http://wikileaks.org/IMG/pdf/tpp-salt-lake-positions.pdf
 
In his article titled Multinationals Are Plotting to Steamroll What’s Left of Our Democracy to Make Huge Profits, Dave Johnson says that the TPP negotiating process “has been rigged from the start.” While hundreds of representatives of corporate-interest groups have been providing their input— “representatives of labor, human rights, civil justice, consumer, environmental and other stakeholder groups have been kept away from the negotiating table.” Members of Congress have not seen the agreement yet. United States Senators “have been barred from seeing negotiation points or drafts.”

The public has been denied any access to TPP negotiating texts. We the people—as well as our elected representatives—are being “kept in the dark” as to what is going on behind closed doors. Yet, “600 corporate advisers” have been involved in the negotiation process. Multi-national corporations like Monsanto and Walmart are helping to craft the agreement. Most of the information that we have on the TPP trade agreement has come from “drafts leaked by participants dissatisfied with one provision or another.” In May, Erika Eichelberger provided some information about TPP in her Mother Jones article titled The Biggest Secret Trade Deal You’ve Never Heard Of, Explained. She says that “trade experts” claim that trade deal negotiations are always conducted under a certain level of secrecy. This supposedly makes it “easier for countries to negotiate amongst themselves without too much noise from advocacy groups and others inside countries.” Bryan Riley, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said, “That is how trade deals have worked…if they are made public, all interested groups can start tearing things apart before it’s even done.”

Eichelberger argues that “there is precedent for releasing proposed trade deal information to the public.” She wrote: “A full draft text of the Free Trade Area of the Americas was released in 2001 during negotiations on that 34-nation pact; a draft text of the recently-completed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was released; and the World Trade Organization posts negotiating texts on its website.” David Brodwin, a cofounder and board member of American Sustainable Business Council, claims that TPP is not merely a trade pact because it would protect legacy industries from competition and would strip governments of the means to manage their own economies. Brodwin says that TPP has been “positioned” as a simple trade agreement that would “harmonize tariffs and other trade rules and promote trade among the countries involved.” He says, however, that the pact has been described by critics as a “stealthy delivery mechanism for policies that could not survive public scrutiny” and one that could “severely curtail government authority at all levels.” Writing for The Nation, Lori Wallach said that TPP had been “cleverly misbranded” as a trade agreement by “its corporate boosters.” According to Wallach, that’s why “it has cruised along under the radar” since George W. Bush “initiated negotiations in 2008.” Although the Obama administration “paused the talks” for a while in order to develop an “approach compatible with candidate Obama’s pledges to replace the old NAFTA-based trade model,” the negotiations were restarted where Bush had left off by late 2009. Wallach suggests we think of TPP “as a stealthy delivery mechanism for policies that could not survive public scrutiny.” She notes that just two of the twenty-six chapters of the pact cover traditional trade matters. She says the other chapters “embody the most florid dreams of the 1 percent—grandiose new rights and privileges for corporations and permanent constraints on government regulation.” She says TPP includes investor safeguards that would “ease job offshoring and assert control over natural resources”—and adds that it would “severely limit the regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare and more.” A Broad Range of Special Interest GiveawaysIn his article titled Obama’s Pacific Trade Deal Is No Deal At All, Brodwin lists some of the “most problematic aspects of TPP”:Many provisions of TPP have little to do with trade per se. They simply promote the interests of powerful global industry groups and use legal and political mechanisms to limit true competition in the market place. For example:
  • Provisions of SOPA, the so-called “Stop Online Piracy Act” which was rejected last year by Congress. SOPA would give a competitive advantage to the film industry and other content-creators while restricting innovation on the internet.
  • Provisions that would extend patent protection on pharmaceuticals while restricting governments from negotiating lower prices.
  • Provisions that would privilege major banks and financial institutions over credit unions and the emerging sector of public banks.
  • Provisions that would disadvantage organic farmers and others who adopt safer and more environmentally-sound agricultural practices.
  • Provisions that would extend the dominance of coal and oil and hinder alternative energy producers, by blocking regulations and limiting deployment of smart grid and other infrastructure.
Brodwin added that the TPP pact would even prevent communities from making the decision about whether or not to allow fracking in their area. Some critics have referred to TPP as “NAFTA on steroids.”

Wallach:

Countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP’s rules—in effect, a corporate coup d’état. The proposed pact would limit even how governments can spend their tax dollars. Buy America and other Buy Local procurement preferences that invest in the US economy would be banned, and “sweat-free,” human rights or environmental conditions on government contracts could be challenged. If the TPP comes to fruition, its retrograde rules could be altered only if all countries agreed, regardless of domestic election outcomes or changes in public opinion. And unlike much domestic legislation, the TPP would have no expiration date. At a Senate banking Committee hearing in May, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) cautioned, “There are growing murmurs about Wall Street’s efforts to use the Trans-Pacific Partnership…as [a] vehicle…to water down the Dodd-Frank Act. In other words, trying to do quietly through trade agreements what they can’t get done in public view with the lights on and people watching.” TPP TribunalsCountries that are signatories to the trade pact “will have to change their policies to conform to the agreement.” What does that mean? It would require a dismantling of “any regulations, safeguards or incentives” the countries had enacted “to support their economies and provide better lives for their citizens.” In fact, a system of tribunals would be established in order “to hold governments to account.” Corporations would be allowed to sue governments “to demand the relaxation of standards, and could claim damages from governments that failed to conform.”Occupy Wall Street (OWS) said that the Trans-Pacific Partnership “represents an about-face by President Obama, who as a candidate pledged to replace the NAFTA model with a US trade policy that protected workers and the environment.” OWS notes that some members of the US Business Coalition for TPP—namely Microsft, Time Warner, and Walt Disney—were among top donors to Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign. On Fast Tracking TPP & SecrecyPresident Obama is seeking Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority for TPP. This would permit Obama to sign the trade agreement “without Congressional approval.” The signed agreement would then be sent to Congress to be “voted on after the fact under a special restricted procedure that forces a vote in 90 days, limits debate, and prevents Congress from responding to public pressure to amend the agreement’s most egregious anti-public interest provisions.” Zoë Carpenter says that allowing “fast-track” authorization, would limit the ability of Congress “to address three major concerns with the TPP: the potentially harmful economic impacts of the deal, the very real prospect of the agreement superseding domestic policy in areas ranging from internet privacy to environmental and financial regulations and an unbalanced negotiating process and its likely outcome, both tipped towards corporate rather than public interest.” In her Mother Jones article, Eichelberger reported that the secrecy shrouding the TPP negotiations “has some lawmakers and advocacy groups up in arms.” She said that several members of Congress had called on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) requesting the  release of the TPP draft agreement to the public, but to no avail. It seems time is running out for “non-corporate” interested parties to find out what is in the trade agreement before it’s signed by the twelve countries and goes into effect. It hasn’t even been made clear “whether members of Congress will ever be able to see the entire contents of the massive trade deal before it’s finalized.” It appears that the public—and maybe our elected representatives—will remain in the dark until after the Trans Pacific Partnership is a done deal. Members of the U.S. Business Coalition for TPP
********************
Dennis Kucinich on Trans-Pacific Partnership How the TPP can rewrite US domestic laws TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You’ve Probably Never Heard Of (EFF)
********************
SOURCES Obama’s Pacific Trade Deal Is No Deal At All (U.S.News)AFL-CIO Campaigns Against Trans-Pacific Partnership (Firedoglake)Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Remove What’s Left Of American Democracy (Firedoglake)Multinationals Are Plotting to Steamroll What’s Left of Our Democracy to Make Huge Profits: We’ve got to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership that’s being drawn up in Washington before it becomes law. (AlterNet)Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (Electronic Frontier Foundation)Why So Secretive? The Trans-Pacific Partnership as Global Coup (Truth-out)Trans-Pacific Partnership Talks: Senators Demand Access To Controversial Documents After Leak (Huffington Post)Monsanto and Walmart Influence Secret TPP Negotiations (New American)The Trans-Pacific Partnership: The Closed-Door Deal To Establish Corporate Power (Occupy Wall Street)NAFTA on Steroids: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would grant enormous new powers to corporations, is a massive assault on democracy. (The Nation)Keeping a Massive Trade Deal Out of the Fast Lane (The Nation)The Biggest Secret Trade Deal You’ve Never Heard Of, Explained: The United States is nearing the end of negotiations on a massive free trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Here’s what it’s all about. (Mother Jones)



Press release: Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) - Environment Chapter

Today, 15 January 2014, WikiLeaks released the secret draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Environment Chapter and the corresponding Chairs' Report. The TPP transnational legal regime would cover 12 countries initially and encompass 40 per cent of global GDP and one-third of world trade. The Environment Chapter has long been sought by journalists and environmental groups. The released text dates from the Chief Negotiators' summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013.
The Environment Chapter covers what the Parties propose to be their positions on: environmental issues, including climate change, biodiversity and fishing stocks; and trade and investment in 'environmental' goods and services. It also outlines how to resolve enviromental disputes arising out of the treaty's subsequent implementation. The draft Consolidated Text was prepared by the Chairs of the Environment Working Group, at the request of TPP Ministers at the Brunei round of the negotiations.
When compared against other TPP chapters, the Environment Chapter is noteworthy for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures. The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are cooperative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions. With the exception of fisheries, trade in 'environmental' goods and the disputed inclusion of other multilateral agreements, the Chapter appears to function as a public relations exercise.
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks' publisher, stated: "Today's WikiLeaks release shows that the public sweetner in the TPP is just media sugar water. The fabled TPP environmental chapter turns out to be a toothless public relations exercise with no enforcement mechanism."
The Chairs' Report of the Environment Working Group also shows that there are still significant areas of contention in the Working Group. The report claims that the draft Consolidated Text displays much compromise between the Parties already, but more is needed to reach a final text. The main areas of contention listed include the role of this agreement with respect to multilateral environmental agreements and the dispute resolution process.
The documents date from 24 November 2013 ─ the end of the Salt Lake City round. They were requested by the Ministers of the TPP after the August 2013 Brunei round. The Consolidated Text was designed to be a "landing zone" document to further the negotiations quickly and displays what the Chairs say is a good representation of all Parties' positions at the time. The WikiLeaks Consolidated Text and corresponding Chairs' Report show that there remains a lot of controversy and disagreement within the Working Group. The Consolidated Text published by WikiLeaks is not bracketed, as per the IP Chapter released in November 2013, as it is drafted by the Chairs of the Working Group at their responsibility. Instead, the accompanying Chairs' Report provides commentary on the draft Consolidated Text and is the equivalent of bracketed disagreements for the countries that have not agreed on certain Articles, and provides their positions.
Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei. This is the third in the series of Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) leaks published by WikiLeaks.



Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) Series so far: