What The White House, Corporations And The Mass Media Don't Want You To Know About The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)
One memo, which was heavily redacted before being released, was written ahead of a new round of talks in Singapore this week. Read the full text of what we received here. (Note: Ellipses indicate redacted text. Text in brackets has been added by a third party.) Another document, a chart outlining different country positions on the text, dates from early November, before the round of negotiations in Salt Lake City, Utah. View the chart here. We were unable to determine which of the 11 non-U.S. nations involved in the talks was responsible for the memo.
One of the most controversial provisions in the talks includes new corporate empowerment language insisted upon by the U.S. government, which would ALLOW foreign companies to challenge laws or regulations in a privately run international court. Under World Trade Organization treaties, this political power to contest government law is reserved for sovereign nations. The U.S. has endorsed some corporate political powers in prior trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the scope of what laws can be challenged appears to be much broader in TPP negotiations.
"The United States, as in previous rounds, has shown no flexibility on its proposal, being one of the most significant barriers to closing the chapter, since under the concept of Investment Agreement nearly all significant contracts that can be made between a state and a foreign investor are included," the memo reads. "Only the U.S. and Japan support the proposal."
Under NAFTA, companies including Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical and Eli Lilly have attempted to overrule Canadian regulations on offshore oil drilling, fracking, pesticides, drug patents and other issues. Companies could challenge an even broader array of rules under the TPP language.
New standards concerning access to key medicines appear to be equally problematic for many nations. The Obama administration is insisting on mandating new intellectual property rules in the treaty that would grant pharmaceutical companies long-term monopolies on new medications. As a result, companies can charge high prices without regard to competition from generic providers. The result, public health experts have warned, would be higher prices around the world, and lack of access to life-saving drugs in poor countries. Nearly every intellectual property issue in the November chart is opposed by a broad majority of the 12 nations. The December memo describes 119 "outstanding issues" that remain unresolved between the nations on intellectual property matters. The deal would obligate nations to develop many standards similar to those in the United States, where domestic prescription drug prices are much higher than costs in other nations.
Australia and New Zealand have medical boards that allow the government to reject expensive new drugs for the public health system, or negotiate lower prices with drug companies that own patents on them. If a new drug does not offer sufficient benefits over existing generic drugs, the boards can reject spending taxpayer money on the new medicines. They can also refuse to pay high prices for new drugs. The Obama administration has been pushing to ban these activities by national boards, which would lock in big profits for U.S. drug companies. Obamacare sought to mimic the behavior of these boards to lower domestic health care costs by granting new flexibilities to U.S. state agencies for determining drug prices.
"The positions are still paralyzed," the December memo reads, referring to the Financial Services Chapter. "The United States shows zero flexibility."
Previously leaked TPP documents have sparked alarm among global health experts, Internet freedom activists, environmentalists and organized labor, but are adamantly supported by American corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Obama administration has deemed negotiations to be classified information -- banning members of Congress from discussing the American negotiating position with the press or the public. Congressional staffers have been restricted from viewing the documents.
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.
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.”
Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei.
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