Posts Tagged ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership’

The TPP and Global Health?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

By Mary Anne Mercer 

Only six months ago when the TPP, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was brought up in discussions, even well-informed activists generally gave blank stares. TP what? But in recent weeks it’s been the subject of increasing news coverage, along with exposure to the so-called fast track authority bill that would grant President Obama authority to sign the agreement without prior Congressional review.

Extensive negotiations on the TPP have been going on in secret over the past several years. As information about the TPP becomes better known, activist groups around the world have organized to oppose it. Just what is the TPP, and why do we care about it?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a “trade” deal (but encompassing many other areas of corporate rights) among 13 countries of the Pacific Rim, including the United States. Official discussions are held behind closed doors without public information or input, and without input from our elected representatives in Congress, so little is known about the specific terms of the agreement. However, WikiLeaks has published two leaked chapters over the past few months detailing regulations concerning intellectual property and the environment. We have good reason to expect that the TPP will ratchet up terms that are prominent in existing trade agreements that have been signed between individual countries. So, although only the negotiating committees, which include about 600 diplomats and corporate representatives, know the exact terms of the deal, we have substantial cause for concern.

Local, national, and international groups concerned about global health have voiced opposition to many terms of the agreement, believing that they would affect the health and quality of life of people around the world if enacted. Some of the main health-related concerns about the TPP include:

– Restrictions on individual countries’ abilities to pass and enforce laws protecting public health. Through a mechanism known as Investor-State Dispute resolution, corporations would be entitled to sue sovereign governments for passing laws that ‘restrict trade’ – even public health measures such as restricting tobacco advertising on cigarette packaging, which the Australian and other governments are now facing.

– Intellectual property laws that would set up barriers to accessing generic medicines and other health commodities (including AIDS drugs), thus dramatically increasing their costs. By extending the already lengthy duration of patents and other corporate protections, Big Pharma will have an even stronger hold on the economic gains to be made from health problems around the world.

– Detrimental effects on equity, including the distribution of income and other resources. There is good evidence 20 years after NAFTA that poverty and inequality have increased in Mexico and wages in the U.S. have stagnated. The promises of NAFTA have not been kept.

But the TPP is far from a done deal. Many progressive groups, including PSARA, are joining together to oppose the TPP and the Fast Track bill. Locally, the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, a coalition of a large number of labor, environmental and community organizations, are leading the fight.

Sen. Harry Reid, Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate, has indicated that he is not interested in the Senate voting on legislation granting Fast Track Authority this year. There is no question that Reid’s decision is a result of mobilization of voters across the country. We will continue to educate and inform as many people as possible about the content of the TPP and the negative impact it will have on jobs, the environment, public health and the democratic process.

Mary Anne Mercer is a Senior Maternal & Child Health Advisor for Health Alliance International, teaches in the Public Health program at University of Washington, and is a PSARA member. 

TransPacific Partnership: Bad News for Working People

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By Kristen Beifus, Executice Director, Washington Fair Trade Coalition & PSARA Environment Committee Co-Chair

NHK Broadcasting, Japan’s equivalent of the BBC, contacted me last month, wanting a statement on the American public’s reaction to the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

A super-sized NAFTA, the TransPacific Partnership is a free-trade agreement whereby countries give foreign corporations rights and privileges to encourage investment and global business. The TPP was a major issue during Japan’s recent national elections, when thousands took to the streets in protest. It was hard for the Japanese journalist to believe me when I explained that there is little awareness of the TPP here in the United States, because our media has hardly covered the subject.

The corporate powers granted in the TPP can override domestic laws on environmental health and safety, and labor and citizens’ rights. Not only that, but multinationals can claim that those domestic laws hamper free trade and sue member countries for millions of dollars. The TPP is in many ways an attempt to revive the stalled expansion of the World Trade Organization.

At present, the TPP talks include 12 Pacific Rim countries: Canada, the United States, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and, most recently, Japan. Thailand and the Philippines have expressed interest, and other countries would be allowed to join the TPP at any time.

Although trade deals have potentially huge effects on the economy, environment, and food sovereignty of communities throughout these 12 countries, the TPP negotiations are being held in secret between unelected government officials and representatives from more than 600 of the world’s most powerful corporations. The United States has plenty of interests clamoring for the trade advantages of the TPP, while developing countries like Vietnam see the TPP as an opportunity for economic development.

But the AFL-CIO, one of the few non-corporate and nongovernmental entities that have access to the text of the agreements, does not support the TPP in its current form because of implications for labor and human rights.

The talks are scheduled to finish by October of this year. Meanwhile, negotiators are lobbying Congress to grant “Fast Track” authority for the TPP. That would mean Congress couldn’t revise the agreements and could only vote “yes” or “no” to the United States joining the TPP.

Leaked documents show how extensive the reach of the TPP would be. It is shaping up as a corporate takeover of public policy that would impact safe food, sustainable jobs, clean water and air, access to life-saving medicines, education, even our very democracy. After 20 years under NAFTA we know the likely impacts for people and the environment.

In March, Citizens Trade Campaign organized a letter to Congress signed by 400 U.S. organizations outlining expectations for public involvement and calling for an end to Fast Track. It was signed by, among others, the Sierra Club, Doctors Without Borders, Public Citizen, the National Family Farm Coalition, and state trade justice groups including the Washington Fair Trade Coalition.

Polls show the majority of Americans believe that offshoring jobs and NAFTA-style free trade deals have hurt the U.S. economy, so it’s likely that Americans would be opposed to the TPP too—if they knew more about it.

The next round of TPP talks will be held July 15-24th in Malaysia. There was a recent secret inter-sessional negotiation round of TPP’s Investor-State Chapter, June 14-16th in Vancouver, however ministers would not share with activists or the media where this round was held. During the round there were actions throughout the city calling for ‘Breaking the Silence on the TPP.’

TPPxBorder, a network of groups in the United States, Canada, and Mexico resisting the TPP, is also gearing up for another TPP Round somewhere in North America in September. Be on the lookout for the TPP to be coming to your town and get ready to take to the streets. For now visit TPPxBorder.org to find out how the TPP will impact you!

NAFTA on Steroids: Stripping the secrecy from The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

By Robby Stern

On Saturday, December 1, at 1 p.m., trade justice groups, labor activists, family farmers, immigration reformers, public health and net neutrality advocates, environmentalists, students, small business owners, and community activists from Canada, Mexico and the United States will gather at Peace Arch Park in Surrey, B.C. and Blaine, WA . These groups are united in their opposition to a new trade and investor rights agreement being written by U.S and other Pacific Rim country negotiators with the guidance of multi-national corporation representatives. Canada and Mexico recently joined the negotiations.

Negotiations have been going on for more than two years under extreme secrecy. Thankfully, there have been leaks and what we have learned is very very disturbing. This agreement represents a fundamental attack on the 99%.
Public Citizen and our local WA Fair Trade Coalition, led by PSARA member Kristen Beifus, have done terrific work in gathering information on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

NAFTA, WTO, Korus (Korea/US trade agreement) and now the TPP are only partially about “trade”. Rather, they are designed to set up a system of enforceable global governance to benefit large corporations.

The TPP would establish corporate run tribunals invested with the power to require that tax dollars be used to compensate corporations if environmental and health laws in the Pacific Rim countries undermine “expected future profits” of multinational corporations.

TPP will also enhance the offshoring of U.S. manufacturing jobs and production to Vietnam and China. Twenty years of NAFTA, WTO and other corporate managed trade agreements have already helped lead to the loss of 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs and 45,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities, In addition, millions of service sector jobs have been offshored. Tax bases have declined with subsequent cuts to education, vital services and infrastructure. Only the top 1 % has benefitted from this economic dislocation.

According to Public Citizen,  this “Mother of all Trade Agreements” could in one blow lead to the offshoring of millions of U.S. jobs, free the banks from the limited oversight they now experience, decrease access to medicine, ban Buy America policies that are now used to create green jobs , and empower corporations with new tools to attack our environmental and health safeguards.

Only two of the 26 TPP chapters address trade. The remainder create new corporate powers, limit domestic policy that would impact corporate profits and grant new monopoly rights. The rules are enforced by binding dispute resolution, overseen by corporate representatives with the ability to impose trade sanctions or cash payments to corporations.
The process by which the TPP is being negotiated is incredible. Over 600 official corporate trade advisors have access to the draft TPP text. But public officials and other representatives from civil society do not have access.

In July, 134 members of the House of Representatives, including Rep. Rick Larsen, sent a letter to U.S. trade Representative Ron Kirk requesting that the appropriate Congressional committees be consulted and that a draft of the text be released. The letter received no response.

Reps. Adam Smith and Jim McDermott sent their own letters calling for more transparency and authentic stakeholder involvement in the negotiation process.  Journalists, unions and others in civil society are excluded from seeing draft TPP texts or knowing the positions of U.S. negotiators.

Information about the TPP has been leaked. The Public Citizen web site, http://www.citizen.org/ TPP or the WA Fair trade Coalition web site , http://washingtonfairtrade.org/ contain more information. Here are just a few highlights.
The TPP will assure higher drug prices for pharmaceutical companies and actually decrease access to medicines by extending patent monopolies on prescription drugs. It empowers pharmaceutical companies or their trade association, PhRMA to challenge medicine pricing formularies such as those used with Medicaid/Medicare and national healthcare systems. It allows the companies to raise the costs of drugs for programs such as PEPFAR (Presidents Emergency plan for AIDS Relief).

The assistance the agreement provides to pharmaceutical companies would also be mirrored in provisions related to Wall Street (rolls back regulations and actually prohibit bans on risky financial products) and †large scale agricultural corporations (food labels considered “trade barriers” and food corporations can directly† challenge domestic standards).

The fight against the TPP has begun throughout the Pacific Rim. We can join with our sisters and brothers who are already in motion in Malaysia, Japan, Australia and other Pacific Rim countries.

December 1, is an opportunity for PSARA members to get involved in the fight.  There will be buses and carpools heading to Peace Arch Park. Contact Kristen Beifus at kristen@washingtonfairtrade.org , or call 206.227.3079 if you would like to participate.