Dean Baker, writing about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for The Guardian, suggests that the deal revolves around anything but free trade. He paints beltway insiders with a brush of humorous reality:
“Free trade” is a sacred mantra in Washington. If anything is labeled as being “free trade”, then everyone in the Washington establishment is required to bow down and support it. Otherwise, they are excommunicated from the list of respectable people and exiled to the land of protectionist Neanderthals.
Currently being negotiated with a level of secrecy that is making many uncomfortable, TPP will lower trade barriers between the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, and eight other Pacific countries. However, there is really no barrier currently between these countries. Like many other “free trade” agreements, the deal is likely to have a negative impact on workers in all participating nations while helping multinational corporations raise profits. As Baker points out, this is only being labeled “free trade” to guarantee support.
In reality, the deal has almost nothing to do with trade: actual trade barriers between these countries are already very low. The TPP is an effort to use the holy grail of free trade to impose conditions and override domestic laws in a way that would be almost impossible if the proposed measures had to go through the normal legislative process. The expectation is that by lining up powerful corporate interests, the governments will be able to ram this new “free trade” pact through legislatures on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.
Perhaps most disheartening about this unnecessary agreement is the way the public is being blacked out of the process. There is no public comment, there are only government officials and corporate CEOs canoodling at the negotiating table.
At this point, it’s not really possible to discuss the merits of the TPP since the governments are keeping the proposed text a secret from the public. Only the negotiators themselves and a select group of corporate partners have access to the actual document. The top executives at General Electric, Goldman Sachs, and Pfizer probably all have drafts of the relevant sections of the TPP. However, the members of the relevant congressional committees have not yet been told what is being negotiated.
Nearly 600 corporate lobbyists have been granted access to the negotiating texts of the TPP, so on Sunday, September 9th, labor, environmental, public health, Internet freedom, consumer, family farm, Occupy and other social justice organizations are joining together in Leesburg, VA for the “No Back Room Deals for the 1%” rally.
Details about the event can be found here on its event page.
Event organizers state the dangers of the TPP in its current state:
* Offshore good-paying jobs to low-wage nations and undercut working conditions globally
* Create new tools for attacking environmental and consumer safety policies
* Deregulate Wall Street banks, hedge funds and insurance companies
* Further concentrate global food supplies, displacing family farmers and subjecting consumers to wild price fluctuations
* Lengthen patents thereby blocking access to affordable, generic medications
A great infographic has been put together (screengrab of its header below) highlighting the dangers of the TPP.
One interesting info leak mentioned by Baker comes on the intellectual property front:
One major focus is will be stronger protection for intellectual property. In the case of recorded music and movies, we might see provisions similar to those that were in the Stop Online Privacy Act (Sopa). This would make internet intermediaries like Google, Facebook and, indeed, anyone with a website into a copyright cop.
Since these measures were hugely unpopular, Sopa could probably never pass as a standalone piece of legislation. But tied into a larger pact and blessed with “free trade” holy water, the entertainment industry may be able to get what it wants.
Baker finds it reprehensible that the FTA is not an election issue and notes that people are offering A REWARD for more leaks of the agreement’s drafts:
In principle, the TPP is exactly the sort of issue that should feature prominently in the fall elections. Voters should have a chance to decide if they want to vote for candidates who support raising the price of drugs for people in the United States and the rest of the world, or making us all into unpaid copyright cops. But there is no text and no discussion in the campaigns – and that is exactly how the corporations who stand to gain want it.
There is one way to spoil their fun. Just Foreign Policy is offering a reward, now up to $21,100, to WikiLeaks if it publishes a draft copy of the pact. People could add to the reward fund, or if in a position to do so, make a copy of the draft agreement available to the world.