This article is from Freedom Socialist Newspaper from the USA
TRUST US! A summit in 2010 as the Trans-Pacific Partnership takes shape. Participants included (left to right) leaders of Vietnam, Australia, Chile, Singapore, the United States, New Zealand, Brunei, and Peru. Photo: Gira a Asia
Big business has run roughshod over the world’s working classes, public services, and the environment. You would think at some point its rapacious appetite would be sated, its global dominance secured. Leave that fantasy behind, it’s not how capitalists think. They want it all, and won’t stop until they get it.
The latest in their long string of crimes can be found in the form of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is yet another free trade agreement, which if successfully negotiated will take global capital’s hegemony to an entirely new level. Drafted in secrecy. The origin of the TPP traces back to a 2005 free trade agreement between Singapore, Chile, New Zealand and Brunei. Since then, eight other countries have joined the pact: Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, the United States and Japan (with “docking provisions” for other nations to join).
If successful, the TPP will be one of the most far-reaching agreements on the planet, affecting 700 million people and $26 trillion in economic activity. That dollar amount will double if China joins.
The TPP isn’t just about tariff and product content issues, which are typical free trade fare. Of 26 chapters in its draft, only two involve classic trade issues.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs says, “The very breadth of the agreement would require the rewriting of numerous domestic laws in every signatory country, threaten the sovereignty and autonomy of domestic legal systems, enable environmental degradation by transnational corporations, impose harsh regulations, and severely limit access to information around the globe.”
The 19th round of TPP negotiations was just concluded in Brunei without public scrutiny or input. All information known about the TPP is a result of leaks. The U.S. is now in the driver’s seat of talks and is pushing hard to conclude them by year’s end. And despite official reports of a cooperative spirit, individual countries have expressed anger at U.S. bullying. Corporations dictate the terms. The participation by multinational corporations is particularly conspicuous. This fact, coupled with the complete lock-down on information, leads one to conclude that the TPP is designed by and for the global capitalist class.
Approximately 600 lobbyists from corporations and industry associations, designated as “cleared advisors,” dominate the advisory committees. These committees are structured around various sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, banking or technology. There are some academic, labor and “community” representatives on the advisory board. But as an academic participant in one of the “Stakeholder Engagement Forums” said, “the only thing I knew with certainty was that I didn’t know much about what was happening in the TPP negotiations.”
One of the TPP’s principles, pushed by the U.S., is that trade should be conducted by private multinational enterprises. In its “pivot to Asia” strategy, the U.S. is trying to gain advantage over China, and thus is hesitant to let China in the TPP. But a sticking point for China’s participation in the TPP is over state run enterprises, which the TPP would designate as unfair trading.
After recent negotiations, the Malaysian trade minister raised concerns of provisions to allow “fair” competition between private and public enterprises to provide goods and services. Malaysia still has large public-sector enterprises making up about one-third of its economy. They include services such as healthcare, but also manufacturing and financial services. While these are not progressive enterprises, and are led by career bureaucrats, they are public property and should be protected as such.
On rules governing “intellectual property,” one might think they would be designed for lawyers and media companies trying to avoid piracy. Think again! A major thrust is about giving pharmaceutical companies a stranglehold on drug production and distribution, thus stopping lower cost medicines from getting to the people who need them.
The TPP would extend the patent protection on drugs to fight HIV/AIDS, preventing member countries such as Vietnam from gaining access to generic and lower cost drugs.
The TPP targets food production and distribution, excluded from most trade agreements. Global agribusiness hopes to make an even greater dent in the Japanese market, one of the most lucrative in the world. Japan’s food self-sufficiency would decline from 39 to 14 percent, moving the island nation further away from its historically healthy diet.
Obama, phony to the core. Fast-track authority, which allows the president to negotiate trade pacts without congressional approval, expired in 2007. But the Obama administration is attempting fast-track anyway. In response, several congressmen have pushed for a slower, more transparent process. But this administration, as political and pro-capitalist as any other, wants a TPP feather in its cap for the mid-term elections.
Despite promises to protect jobs and the environment, Obama has passionately embraced an agreement that does everything but that. The TPP is about expanding profits and markets for the capitalist class, nothing more or less.
Class matters in opposing the TPP. The interests of the most powerful are definitely served by the TPP, but that doesn’t mean support is universal among the ruling class. Parts of the “intellectual property” provisions are opposed by media and tech companies. And different sectors of the capitalist class in each country have something to win or lose with TPP’s enactment. It’s easy to side with the capitalist class in opposing parts of the pact.
Some U.S. reformists and labor officials partner with the U.S. bourgeoisie in raising alarms about TPP’s impact on the U.S. economy and jobs.
This nationalistic approach focuses on foreign corporations in the U.S. It ignores the equal or greater damage that U.S. multinationals could do to the jobs or environments of other signatory nations.
Opposition to the TPP should be built from a perspective of international workingclass solidarity. U.S. workers need to collaborate with the working classes of other TPP countries, to fight privatization and anti-labor provisions everywhere. And to stop any moves that undermine the ability of people to feed themselves with healthy food grown in their country, or to acquire affordable medicine.
Trade and exchange of ideas between peoples is a good thing. All humans share one small planet, and have unique resources to offer each other.
The real question is in whose interest and for what purpose will trade be organized? The TPP is written for a global one percent who cannot even fathom the concept of “enough.” What is needed instead is a trading system that is under the control of the world’s working classes, designed for the benefit of all peoples and preservation of the natural world. That will take nothing less than socialism.
• Stop the TPP!
• No privatization of public services!
To listen to this article and others from this issue, https://archive.org/details/10Track10_20131001 - click here.
From Nation of Change
What if our national leaders told us that communities across America had to eliminate such local programs as Buy Local, Buy American, Buy Green, etc. to allow foreign corporations to have the right to make the sale on any products purchased with our tax dollars? This nullification of our people's right to direct expenditures is just one of the horror stories in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
This is a super-sized NAFTA, the 1994 trade scam rammed through Congress by the entire corporate establishment. NAFTA promised the "glories of globalization": prosperity across our land. Unfortunately, corporations got the gold. We got the shaft — thousands of factories closed, millions of middle-class jobs went south, and the economies of hundreds of towns and cities were shattered.
Twenty years later, the gang that gave us NAFTA is back with the TPP, a "trade deal" that mostly does not deal with trade.
Of the 29 chapters in this document, only five cover traditional trade matters! The other chapters amount to a devilish "partnership" for corporate protectionism:—Food safety.
Any of our government's food safety regulations (on pesticide levels, bacterial contamination, fecal exposure, toxic additives, etc.) and food labeling laws (organic, country-of-origin, animal-welfare approved, GMO-free, etc.) that are stricter than "international standards" could be ruled as "illegal trade barriers." Our government would then have to revise our consumer protections to comply with weaker standards.—Fracking.
Our Department of Energy would lose its authority to regulate exports of natural gas to any TPP nation. This would create an explosion of the destructive fracking process across our land, for both foreign and U.S. corporations could export fracked gas from America to member nations without any DOE review of the environmental and economic impacts on local communities — or on our national interests.—Jobs.
US corporations would get special foreign-investor protections to limit the cost and risk of relocating their factories to low-wage nations that sign onto this agreement. So, an American corporation thinking about moving a factory would know it is guaranteed a sweetheart deal if it moves operations to a TPP nation like Vietnam. This would be an incentive for corporate chieftains to export more of our middle-class jobs.—Drug prices.
Big Pharma would be given more years of monopoly pricing on each of their patents and be empowered to block distribution of cheaper generic drugs. Besides artificially keeping everyone's prices high, this would be a death sentence to many people suffering from cancer, HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis and other treatable diseases in impoverished lands.—Banksters.
Wall Street and the financial giants in other TPP countries would make out like bandits. The deal explicitly prohibits transaction taxes (such as the proposed Robin Hood Tax here) that would shut down speculators who have repeatedly triggered financial crises and economic crashes around the world. It restricts "firewall" reforms that separate consumer banking from risky investment banking. It could roll back reforms that governments adopted to fix the extreme bank-deregulation regimen that caused Wall Street's 2007 crash. And it provides an escape from national rules that would limit the size of "too-big-to-fail" behemoths.—Internet freedom.
Corporations hoping to lock up and monopolize the Internet failed in Congress last year to pass their repressive "Stop Online Piracy Act." However, they've slipped SOPA's most pernicious provisions into TPP. The deal would also transform Internet service providers into a private, Big Brother police force, empowered to monitor our "user activity," arbitrarily take down our content and cut off our access to the Internet. To top that off, consumers could be assessed mandatory fines for something as benign as sending your mom a recipe you got off of a paid site.—Public services.
TPP rules would limit how governments regulate such public services as utilities, transportation and education — including restricting policies meant to ensure broad or universal access to those essential needs. One insidious rule says that member countries must open their service sectors to private competitors, which would allow the corporate provider to cherry-pick the profitable customers and sink the public service.
Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch, correctly calls the Trans-Pacific Partnership "a corporate coup d'etat." Nations that join must conform their laws and rules to TPP's strictures, effectively supplanting U.S. sovereignty and canceling our people's right to be self-governing. Worse, it creates virtually permanent corporate rule over us.
Is it impossible to stop? Nope. There is also a broad, well-organized and politically experienced coalition of grassroots groups, which has stopped other deals and will do it again. We the people can protect our democratic rights from this threat of corporate usurpation. Check out
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono speaks Tuesday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. President Obama missed the meeting due to the budget impasse in Washington. Beawiharta/Pool/EPA/Landov
Imagine a poker table.
At one seat, China's President Xi Jinping studies his cards. At another, Russian President Vladimir Putin is stroking his chin. Asian leaders fill the other seats, each trying to win the pot, which is filled — not with poker chips — but with jobs. That's the kind of high-stakes game that played out this week in Indonesia, where global leaders got together to discuss trade relations. Their gathering ended Tuesday, and exactly who won what is not yet clear.
But this much is known: President Obama was not at the table.
And his absence, due to budget and debt tensions in Washington, was not good for American workers. Or at least that's the assessment of the president himself, as well as many economists.'Important To Show Up'
Economists say the president needs to be in the game, but he missed his chances at the three-day summit. "It's always important to show up" whenever global leaders are talking trade, said Bill Adams, senior international economist for PNC Financial Services Group.
"Sweeping trade agreements are never settled at one meeting, but they are large and complex, so you need to keep working on them," he said. "You need face time with other leaders."
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Obama concurred.
"I should have been there," Obama said. "It's like me not showing up at my own party."
Many Asian leaders had hoped to end the APEC meeting with an announcement about advances in trade deals, in particular the with the United States. But those hopes fizzled, with some Asian officials saying they fear the TPP because Obama was not there to push it.
Obama agreed, telling reporters, "I would characterize it as missed opportunities."
Advancing a megatrade deal is particularly important at this stage of the slow U.S. economic recovery, most economists contend. That's because growth spurts typically come from:1.) fiscal stimulus (Congress spending money for new roads and bridges)
Options No. 1 and 2 are off the table, given that Congress is in no mood to spend more money, and the Fed already has pushed interest rates to historic lows. So the only booster shot would have to come from U.S. exports.
That's why Obama wants the TPP. His goal is to get 11 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region to make it much easier for U.S. companies to sell services in Asia without having to set up a physical presence there.
So companies engaged in, say, digital media, online retailing and health sciences, are excited about getting a better shot at Asian customers without having to open expensive foreign offices. The White House first announced outlines of the agreement back in was held in Obama's old hometown, Honolulu.
Speaking on the sidelines of that APEC gathering, Obama said that a trans-Pacific partnership would "boost our economies, lowering barriers to trade and investment, increasing exports and creating more jobs for our people, which is my No. 1 priority."
But getting the trade representatives for the United States — along with other TPP partners Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — all on the same page isn't easy. Schmoozing with Asian leaders might have been helpful this week.A Missing Star
In fact, Obama had been scheduled to be the star speaker at APEC on Monday. And at the Tuesday, the theme was "America's leadership and priorities: What they mean for the world."
But as it turned out, the president had to skip the gathering, allowing the heads of China and Russia to have center stage as they met with leaders from that rim the Pacific Ocean. Collectively, APEC countries include about 3 billion people and generate half of the world's economic output.
Obama said he needed to stay in Washington during the intense political battles over the budget and debt ceiling.
The APEC summit had offered Obama an opportunity to demonstrate his often mentioned "pivot to Asia."
The president wants the United States to be deeply engaged in Asia to serve as an economic and military counterweight to China. But the constant swirl of domestic politics has made it tough for him to connect with Asia's leaders. In 2010, he canceled two trips to the region — once to stay in Washington to push Congress on health care legislation, and again because of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
And this year, he had to skip APEC because of politics. The White House had hoped the APEC gathering would end with a splashy announcement of a TPP agreement. Instead, it ended with a statement that countries are , with the goal of reaching an agreement this year.
"It's a loss" for U.S. businesses to have their president sitting out an event that could have advanced trade, said Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers.Some Oppose A Trade Deal
Not everyone shares that assessment. Labor groups and others opposed to TPP were glad to see Asia leaders avoid mention of the trade deal. "That the leaders have admitted that there is no deal nor a clear path to obtaining one this year, despite the hype built up pre-summit, reveals the growing domestic political blowback against the TPP," Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, said in a statement.
Public Citizen and others groups are concerned about TPP's potential impact on labor standards, capital controls and the environment, among other issues.
Jasinowski said that at least on the jobs question, "U.S. manufacturers feel they already have lost the jobs they were going to lose" to cheaper competitors in Asia. "The low-wage exodus is over, so now manufacturers are looking for more exports" of high-end U.S. products and services to overseas customers, he said.
But Jasinowski said the biggest loss for trade supporters was not Obama's decision to stay home. It was the reason for his decision, namely, the inability of Congress and the White House to work together.
And the federal shutdown also has led to the scuttling of the second round of trade talks that were due to start in Belgium with European countries.
Getting any trade deals approved by Congress would be challenging during the best of times because many labor groups and some business interests are wary of them, Jasinowski said. With relations between the White House and lawmakers now so ragged, the outlook for building pro-trade coalitions may be diminished, he said.
"Having the president not go to Asia won't stop global trade," Jasinowski said. "But the increased animosity [in Washington] will make it harder" to get lawmakers to work together on trade-related legislation.
The US is keen to convince its Pacific friends to fear a spy-friendly Beijing. The irony? Washington’s spying network is far more widespread than anything coming from the Chinese.Antony Loewenstein
'We still don’t know the exact extent of intelligence sharing between Australia and the US, except it’s very close and guaranteed to continue'. Photograph: Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters
What if China was beating the US at its own super-power game in the Pacific and we didn’t even notice?
While Washington distracts itself with shutdown shenanigans and failed attempts to control the situation in the Middle East, president Obama’s “pivot to Asia” looks increasingly shaky. Beijing is quietly filling the gap, signing multi-billion dollar trade deals with Indonesia and calling for a regional infrastructure bank.
Meanwhile in recent years, New Zealand has been feeling some of the US's attention, and conservative prime minister John Key is more than happy to shift his country’s traditional skepticism towards Washington into a much friendlier embrace.
Canberra is watching approvingly. It’s almost impossible to recall a critical comment by leaders of either country towards global US surveillance. We are like obedient school children, scared that the bully won’t like us if we dare push back and argue harder for our own national interests.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), warmly backed by Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and New Zealand, is just the latest example of US client states allowing US multinationals far too much influence in their markets in a futile attempt to challenge ever-increasing Chinese business ties in Asia. German-born, New Zealand resident and internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom tweeted this week:
This erosion of sovereignty goes to the heart with what’s wrong with today’s secretive and unaccountable arrangements between nations desperate to remain under the US's security blanket, and New Zealand provides an intriguing case-study in how not to behave, including using US spy services to monitor the phone calls of Kiwi journalist Jon Stephenson and his colleagues while reporting the war in Afghanistan.
There’s no indication that Australia isn’t following exactly the same path, with new evidence that Australia knew about the US spying network Prism long before it was made public. We still don’t know the exact extent of intelligence sharing between Australia and the US, except it’s very close and guaranteed to continue. Frustratingly, the "Five Eyes" relationship between English-speaking democracies has only been seriously discussed publicly in the last years by Greens senator Scott Ludlam.
New Zealand is a close Australian neighbour, but news from there rarely enters our media. This is a shame because we can learn a lot from the scandal surrounding the illegal monitoring of Dotcom and the public outcry which followed, something missing in Australia after countless post-Snowden stories detailing corporate and government spying on all citizens.
Dotcom is the founder of Megaupload (today called Mega), a file sharing website that incurred the wrath of US authorities. Washington wanted to punish him but Dotcom obtained New Zealand residency in late 2010, bringing a close US ally into the mix. Intelligence matters usually remain top-secret, leading New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager tells me, but this case was different, blowing open the illegal spying on Dotcom. His lawyers scrutinised all the police warrants after the FBI-requested raid on his house. The government communications security bureau (GCSB) has always claimed it never monitored New Zealand citizens; Dotcom soon discovered this was false. Public outrage followed, and an investigation revealed many other cases of GCSB over-reach since 2003. Prime minister Key responded by simply changing legislation to allow spying on residents.
Hager explained to me what his investigations uncovered:
With Dotcom, GCSB helped the police by monitoring Dotcom's e-mail. What this largely or entirely meant in practice was that the GCSB sent a request through to the NSA to do the monitoring for them and received the results back. This means that the NSA used either wide internet surveillance (essentially "Echelon for the Internet") or else requests to the internet companies (Gmail etc) directly, ie the Prism type operations. It's not clear which it was.
The Key government now wants to increase its monitoring capabilities even more, and New Zealanders are showing concern.
I spoke at a public meeting in Auckland's town hall before the GCSB bill was passed. It was the biggest political meeting I can remember attending, with three levels of the large town hall completely full, and hundreds of people turned away. It's been a big thing here, becoming one of those issues that is a lightning rod for general unhappiness with the government.
New Zealand journalist Martyn Bradbury has also been a vocal critic of the Dotcom case. He’s pushing for a New Zealand digital bill of rights and tells me that “the case against Dotcom is more about the US stamping their supremacy onto the Pacific by expressing US jurisdiction extends not just into New Zealand domestically, but also into cyberspace itself.”
I talked to one of Dotcom’s lawyers, Ira P Rothken, who went further:
The US government’s attack against Megaupload bears all the hallmarks of a political prosecution in favour of Hollywood copyright extremists. The US used its influence with New Zealand to unleash a military style raid on Dotcom's family, to spy on him, and to remove his data from New Zealand without authorisation – all of which has been found to be illegal.
Megaupload and Kim Dotcom are today’s targets, but the US crosshairs can just as easily be trained on anybody globally who dares challenge or inconvenience a special interest that holds sway in Washington, and the US – with its notoriously insatiable appetite for demonstrating political and global power – seems all too willing to cooperate.
This brings us back to China and the US’s attempts to convince its Pacific friends to fear a belligerent and spying Beijing. The irony isn’t lost on the informed who realise Washington’s global spying network is far more pernicious and widespread than anything the Obama administration and corporate media tell us is coming from the Chinese.
Neither China nor the US are benign in the spying stakes. Both are guilty of aggressively pursuing their interests without informing their citizens of their rights and actions. Australia and New Zealand are weak players in an increasingly hostile battle between two super-powers, and many other nations in our region are being seduced by the soft power of Beijing (including Papua New Guinea, partly due to its vast resource wealth).
A lack of transparency abounds. What is desperately needed is an adversarial press determined to demand answers about Australia’s intelligence relationship with the US – and whether all citizens should now presume they’re being monitored on a daily basis.
This summer, fair trade activists and allies worked hard to raise awareness of the TPP, which has been blacked out of the media. They held visibility actions and teach-ins across the country. Tens of thousands of educational TPP occucards were distributed.
The work has paid off. There is more discussion of the TPP and more articles are appearing about it. And the increased visibility and pressure has emboldened TPP opponents in other countries to protest. Here in the US, the process has slowed and members of Congress from both the Democratic and Republican Parties are taking a stance against the TPP and Fast Track approval. Our goal now is to prevent congress from voting for Fast Track.
Fast Track, also called Trade Promotion Authority, would allow the President to sign the TPP and then send it to Congress for a rapid up or down vote without the ability to make changes. This would subvert a democratic and transparent process. It would allow the TPP to be rammed through without evaluation of the impact it will have on protection of consumers, workers and the planet. We expect a Fast Track bill to be introduced this fall, as the President wants a vote before December. The President often asks for unpopular votes around the holidays because many people are distracted then. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen!
Join a Tuesday Fair Trade Brigade!
Starting October 1st, the Fair Trade Brigade will visit congressional offices every Tuesday through December 10th to tell our elected representatives to vote ‘no’ on Fast Track. We will keep track of how each member plans to vote and maintain a Fast Track database so everyone can see whether their member is serving the people or their corporate backers. We will meet at 10 AM in the cafeteria of the Longworth House Office building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. If you can join us on any Tuesday please fill out this form below or email Cassidy and she will get back to you.Name: Phone Number: Email: Please select the Tuesday(s) you can participate: Oct 1 Oct 8 Oct 15 Oct 22 Oct 29 Nov 5 Nov 12 Nov 19 Nov 26 Dec 3 Dec 10 Please enter what you see above and click send..
If you can’t make it to DC, you can form a Fair Trade Brigade where you live and visit your member of Congress at their local office. If you do, consider announcing it on our Action Page. Afterwards, let us know how your member of Congress is planning to vote so we can update our Fast Track database. Together, we can stop Fast Track and the TPP. The people can succeed against transnational corporate power and for protection of the planet and all living beings. Let’s do it!© 2013 Flush the TPP! —
From Nation of ChangeBy Andrea Brower
Much attention has been turned in recent months to the fact that the agro-chemical/GMO industry -- corporate giants Dow, Pioneer DuPont, Syngenta, Monsanto, BASF -- have been using Hawaii since the 1990s as one of their main testing grounds for experiments engineering new pesticide-crop combos. On the "Garden Island" of Kauai, the industry controls over 15,000 acres of prime agricultural land, which they drench with over 17 tons of restricted-use pesticides each year, and likely at least five times that amount in non-restricted pesticides that may be equally as harmful (such as glyphosate).
Because genetically engineered seeds are most typically designed to be used in conjunction with specific pesticides, the development of new GE crops (or at least the types the industry is choosing to develop) requires repeated applications of these chemicals and their mixing into new toxic cocktails with unknown consequences. From a lawsuit, we know that Pioneer DuPont alone has used 90 pesticide formulations with 63 active ingredients in the past 6 years. They apply these pesticides around 250 (sometimes 300) days each year, with 10-16 applications per day on average. The amount of pesticides used on the island by these operations makes the corn fields in Kansas look organic.
Pesticides are sprayed next to schools, hospitals, neighborhoods and major waterways, with zero buffer zone and zero public knowledge of what is being sprayed and when it will happen. Preliminary evidence suggests that living in the shadow of these companies may be causing alarming rates of rare birth defects and cancers. Residents' complaints of asthma, skin rashes, nose bleeds and migraines are common. There have been several incidents of groups of students at a neighboring school collapsing and falling ill, and a reported eleven teachers have had to leave the small school in the past few years due to health concerns. While they are spending millions marketing themselves as "good neighbors," the chemical companies are doing everything they can to fight even the most basic pesticide disclosure and small buffer zones around schools.The TPP.
At the international level, through the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) these same chemical corporations are seeking to lock us in to arrangements that guarantee their profit interests will not be impeded by pesky democratic governments protecting people's health or other common interests. The TPP is a highly secretive international agreement being negotiated under the pretext of "trade" between twelve Asian and Pacific Rim countries, including the United States.
If passed, it will amount to perhaps the biggest corporate power-grab in history, putting the rights of corporations above those of elected governments and sovereign nations.
Under the cryptic title of "Investor State Dispute Settlement" (ISDS), foreign corporations could challenge national and local laws and regulations that undermine their expected profits, holding tax-payers liable for these losses. Challenges could be brought for everything from attempts to regulate pesticide use to health warnings on cigarettes. Governments would be tried in private offshore tribunals that lack transparency and due process.
Where they already exist, these private tribunals routinely put the economic interests of corporations ahead of the rights of people and governments. Under NAFTA's ISDS provisions the Mexican government was sued by three separate corporations for their tax on High Fructose Corn Syrup, and forced to pay nearly $170 million USD. The highest monetary award in the history of ISDS was ruled on last year when Ecuador was ordered to pay $1.77 billion to Occidental Petroleum Corp for terminating their oil contract.
Like preceding "free-trade" agreements, the TPP will lower environmental and labor protections, weaken biosecurity and food safety efforts, encourage a "race-to-the bottom" in agricultural production, cripple local food economies, lead to further corporate consolidation in all parts of the food chain, and threaten indigenous rights to land and resources. Most fundamentally, the TPP will radically undermine people's ability to participate in defining what kind of future they want.
While we can't know the exact details of the TPP because it is being negotiated in secret, what is certain is that it is advancing a food future designed by Monstanto, DuPont, Syngenta and the rest of the agribusiness giants.Connecting the dots.
What is the logic that is driving a corporate food system forward? How has it become acceptable to allow the world's largest chemical manufacturers to experiment with pesticide cocktails next to schools, while at the same time giving these corporations more power to sue democratic governments attempting to protect people's most basic rights? When we already have all the technology and agricultural knowledge that we need to be feeding every person on the planet sustainably, why do we seem to be choosing paths that are remarkably undemocratic, ecologically and socially destructive?
It is true that money in politics, the "revolving door" in government, corporate media and lack of general public awareness all play a role in promoting a food system that serves the interests of the few over the many. But more fundamentally, we need to pay attention to the driving logics behind a food system in which meeting human needs is obviously not the priority. Centuries in the making and decades in the congealing (thank you Reaganomics), our corporate food system is the result of subjecting food and agriculture to the logics of privatization, commodification, and the competitive accumulation of wealth at all expense. In other words, food and agriculture have increasingly been turned into a domain for money to make more money. While the complexity and detail of this are a bit much for an already-too-long blog post, some basic points are worth mentioning:
Not by accident, "free market" policies have facilitated a "foodopoly" system, where a handful of agro-food corporations stand between growers and consumers. Today, 20 food corporations produce most of the food eaten by Americans, including organic brands, and four retail chains control over half of all grocery sales. Their power has been facilitated by the TPP's predecessors, and because of their power they sit in the negotiating room for the TPP.
Monopolies always need more money to win the game. Everyone else pays.
Corporations have a single structural mandate -- to make profit for their shareholders. To make profit, agro-food corporations must relentlessly grow, seek new markets, and drive down costs by exploiting people and nature. In the frontiers of wild-west agro-food capitalism, it is a game of who can take the most and get away with it. Syngenta and DuPont have no choice but to endanger bees and biodiversity while lobbying for anti-democratic trade agreements and saturating the planet in glyphosate, atrazine and neonicotinoids. It is more financially prudent for them to spend millions suing the little County of Kauai than to agree to disclose their pesticide use. If Syngenta decided tomorrow to pay just for the health care costs of all the people worldwide harmed by their chemicals, not to mention for environmental remediation or the costs of damaged ecosystem services, there would be nothing left of their bottom-line. We are paying their true costs.New fences necessary.
For money to make more money, new markets are needed. Over the past centuries, food and the resources to grow it have continuously been transformed into new money-making opportunities by imposing private property in spaces that were perviously considered "common." Today we are witnessing this in the privatization of our common genetic wealth, and in the massive global "land grab" that is expropriating millions of acres of farmland and accompanying water rights from peasant growers in the name of "productivity" and "development" (i.e. folding resources and people into the global capitalist market). Once something becomes "private," society has a difficult time recalling that is was ever considered something that belongs to us all.Plenty of wealth, but none for the people doing the work.
As money searches to make new money in the agro-food system, farmers and farm-workers fare the worst. Worldwide, farmers are squeezed in every direction by the agro-food corporations that control agricultural inputs, distribution, processing, marketing and retail sales. The market is anything but "free" for growers, for whom what is produced, how it is produced, and for whom it is produced is increasingly decided by shareholder's profitability margins. It is smallholder farmers who, following decades of policy that displaces local agricultural economies in favor of commodity cash-crops, have become the world's main victims of poverty and hunger.Keep paying the bank, even when it's well past bloated.
The deregulation of the agricultural commodities futures market 13 years ago signaled a new extreme in turning food and agriculture entirely over to the interests of the capitalist market.
In the past years there has been an influx of purely financial players who seek solely to profit from changes in food prices. Hedge funds, pension funds and investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Barclays Capital now dominate the food commodities markets, with speculative investment in 2011 amounting to 20 times the amount spent by all countries on agricultural aid. A very small number of people are getting rich gambling on hunger.
The logics advancing a corporate food system are not new. What has perhaps become more visible today are the consequences of believing that the best way to organize our economy is around the competitive accumulation of wealth and turning virtually everything into private property so that the almighty market (or more accurately, the players who have the most market power) can dictate what is and isn't good for us. What ends up being good for us is the poisoning of Hawaii and the creation of corporate courts with the power to block democracy. Somebody is making money, and according to the logic of capitalism, that's what matters.The possibility of something better.
There is no shortage of ways to move in the more sane direction of a food system that actually feeds everybody, provides decent livelihoods, and preserves ecological integrity. For starters: enforce anti-trust laws to break up monopolies in the food system; change policies to support farmers and farmworkers rather than corporate agribusiness; support organizational structures like workers' cooperatives where benefits are distributed more equitably; get banks out of the business of speculating on hunger (and out of policy-making more generally); tax the incredible profits of corporate food giants to fund public distribution systems that affirm food as a basic human right; terminate patents on our genetic commons; redirect resources towards public (versus privatized and non-transparent) agricultural science that mimics nature instead of industry; support the capacity of all nations to feed themselves by strategies based on the right to food; pay more attention to the very intelligent voices of peasants demanding food sovereignty. And on Kauai, pass a strong Bill 2491!
There is much more that could go on this list, and beyond these, we need to think big, to question the logics and structures that have created the need for such proposals in the first place. We cannot be fearful of articulating more "radical," or "at the root" visions and solutions. The values that most of us would claim to share -- democracy, fairness, cooperation, ecological sustainability, taking care of one another -- need to become the logics that structure our food system. When we are poisoning the possibility of an inhabitable planet into the future, allowing a billion to go hungry though there is more than enough to feed everybody, and loosing our last shreds of true democracy -- all in the name of "the market" -- it is well past time to reclaim our common humanity.
Before we even start to find out what TPP is, what it stands for, what it does, or will do, it is necessary to examine where it came from and what it means.
Copyright and censorship – particularly internet censorship – are the issues which affect the major organisations around the world, and we need to bear in mind that these issues arise in the United States of America.
Before TPP there were SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, NAFTA, and also on the horizon a recent discussion involving Europe with something similar to TPP, the TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP.
According to the US government, “On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico (NAFTA) came into force. All remaining duties and quantitative restrictions were eliminated, as scheduled, on January 1, 2008.
NAFTA created the world's largest free trade area, which now links 450 million people producing $17 trillion worth of goods and services. Trade between the United States and its NAFTA partners has soared since the agreement entered into force.
With NAFTA U.S. goods and services trade totaled $1.6 trillion in 2009 (latest data available for goods and services trade combined). Exports totaled $397 billion. Imports totaled $438 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade deficit with NAFTA was $41 billion in 2009.
The United States has $918 billion in total (two ways) goods trade with NAFTA countries (Canada and Mexico) during 2010. Goods exports totaled $412 billion; Goods imports totaled $506 billion. The U.S. goods trade deficit with NAFTA was $95 billion in 2010.
Trade in services with NAFTA (exports and imports) totaled $99 billion in 2009 (latest data available for services trade). Services exports were $63.8 billion. Services imports were $35.5 billion. The U.S. services trade surplus with NAFTA was $28.3 billion in 2009.”Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act - CISPA
If you read the introductory paragraphs of the following article from PC mag you will get the gist of what the US governments is trying to do and the consequences for all of us:
According to Chloe Albanesius of PC magazine “A controversial cyber-security bill known as CISPA is once again in the news. The US House approved the bill last week, and it now moves to the Senate, but opponents of the measure are not going down without a fight. Today, in fact, hacker collective Anonymous is calling on websites to go dark in protest of CISPA as they did last year against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).”Why is CISPA being compared to SOPA and PIPA?
What is CISPA? CISPA stands for Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. It would allow for voluntary information sharing between private companies and the government in the event of a cyber attack. If the government detects a cyber attack that might take down Facebook or Google, for example, they could notify those companies. At the same time, Facebook or Google could inform the feds if they notice unusual activity on their networks that might suggest a cyber attack,” Albanesius says.
To understand how the US government is trying to control the whole world, look at all the web sites you can lay your hands on, and be afraid – very afraid! 
From CISPA, we have had SOPA and PIPA and these on their own are grim and frightening, but we should also examine COICA. Here’s where we start:COICA is the Combatting Online Infringement and Counterfeiting Act.
On 18 January 2012 an internet blackout occurred after dramatic international collaboration between individuals and organisations who saw the dangers of these draconian bills being passed by the US Congress.
The history of this event is captured in a book called “HACKING POLITICS” which tells the story of how Geeks, Progressives, The Tea Party, Gamers, Anarchists and Suits Teamed Up to Defeat SOPA and save the Internet”.
A young man Aaron Swartz, who was involved with this campaign and who was an initiator of REDDIT, (reddit is a source for what's new and popular on the web. What does the name "reddit" mean?It's (sort of) a play on words -- i.e., "I read it on reddit.") and who committed suicide in January 2013 because the US legal authorities of the Federal government had indicted him for alleged overuse of an online cataloguing service called JSTOR stated after the SOPA/PIPA victory that the US government and Congress will not give up and they will work on something which will make the earlier bills seem like child’s play in comparison.
Welcome to the world of TPP, the Trans –Pacific Partnership.
Australia’s Choice Magazine’s Madison Cartwright reported: Choice recently attended the 18th round of negotiations for the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) in Malaysia and raised concerns the agreement may include provisions that will harm Australian consumers, particularly in the areas of intellectual property and food and health labelling.
The notoriously secretive TPP has been holding its negotiations behind closed doors – the only information available about the TPP have come from leaked drafts.
The TPP currently includes 12 countries – Japan, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, Vietnam and Australia.
Of real concern for Australians will be the possibility of Internet censorship, restrictions on pharmaceuticals – affecting thousands in Australia and elsewhere because generics may be a thing of the past, and so many other issues about which we are not able to know anything because it is all so secretive and the media are involved in this conspiracy of silence.
There are a few media exceptions but they do not allow us to find out what is involved in the negotiations and who is doing the negotiations on our behalf.
Those locally who have written about TPP are Antony Loewenstein (published in theguardian.com 9 October 2013) and Peter Martin, (Article published in The Age 23 September 2013) Economics correspondent for Fairfax Media.
Our web pages provide many articles from Australia and overseas, including Loewenstein’s and Martin’s, and these can be found on:http://www.josken.net/tpp.htm
If you want to help stop “fast track,” call your member of Congress today!
You’ve probably been hearing warnings about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement that is being negotiated. And you might have heard that the big corporations are going to push to use something called “fast track” trade promotion authority (TPA) to push it through.
It’s time to learn about TPP and fast track, and then call your member of Congress to let them know if you want them to hand the giant multinationals an end-run around democracy and national sovereignty.The Fast Track Push Is Coming
“Fast track” trade promotion authority, if passed, means Congress yields its constitutional authority and obligation to review and amend trade agreements. A “fast track” treaty has to be voted on quickly, cannot be amended, and Congress has to give it an up-or-down vote.
The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman is pushing Congress to pass “fast track,” in hope of pushing through the TPP agreement by the end of the year. Politico lays it out, in “Froman pushing Congress to finalize trade deals,” President Barack Obama was often criticized in his first term for moving too slowly on trade, but now his chief negotiator is pressing Congress to pick up the pace as the White House pushes to conclude a landmark trade deal in the Asia-Pacific by the end of the year.
[. . .] Froman and his team at USTR are pushing to finish the TPP talks by the end of the year, putting pressure on Congress to move a TPA bill to set the stage for the final phase of talks.Fast Track To Push TPP
The next “trade” treaty will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is a huge treaty with only a small part covering trade. Most of the agreement (according to leaks) sets down a new kind of regulatory structure for the giant corporations that would supersede the ability of any country to rein them in. The treaty is being negotiated in secret with only business interests “at the table.” Representatives of others with a stake in the outcome are not part of the process. Groups representing the interests of consumers, labor, human rights, the environment, democracy or even smaller and innovative companies that might want to compete with the giant multinationals are not part of the negotiations.
Economist Dean Baker explains that TPP is not about “free trade” and growth, writing, Of course the TPP is not about free trade, in most cases the formal trade barriers between the countries negotiating the pact are relatively low. The main thrust of the negotiations is to impose a regulator structure in a wide range of areas — health, safety, environmental — which will override national and sub-national rules. This has little to do with trade and in some cases, such as the increased patent protection for prescription drugs being pushed as part of the deal (which is noted in the article), will actually involve increased barriers to trade.
In The Trans-Pacific Partnership: A Trade Agreement for Protectionists, Baker writes, “The TPP is about crafting rules that will favor big business at the expense of the rest of the population in both the United States and in other countries.
… The world has benefited from the opening of trade over the last four decades. But this opening has been selective so that, at least in the United States, most of the gains have gone to those at the top. It is possible to design trade deals that benefit the population as a whole, but not when corporate interests are literally the negotiators at the table.Other “Trade” Agreements Have Cost Us Dearly
One after another “trade” agreements come along that, rather than helping lift the working people of the world, instead help the multinationals use exploited workers to break unions and lower wages. These agreements also let companies manufacture in countries that do not require environmental protection while bringing the resulting lower-priced goods here with no added cost at the border, undermining our own protections. Allowing these things makes our democracy, and its good wages and protections, a competitive disadvantage in world markets.
Previous trade agreements were passed with the promise of increases in growth and wages here, but the opposite has resulted. And they have increased rather than reduced our trade deficits. They have only served to enrich the already-wealthy.
NAFTA: According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) briefing paper “Heading South: U.S.-Mexico trade and job displacement after NAFTA,” “As of 2010, U.S. trade deficits with Mexico totaling $97.2 billion had displaced 682,900 U.S. jobs.” (That is net jobs, taking into account jobs gained.)China: In August, 2012 EPI estimated that the U.S. lost 2.7 million jobs as a result of the U.S.-China trade deficit between 2001 and 2011, 2.1 million of them in manufacturing. Aside from job losses wages US wages fell due to the competition with cheap Chinese labor costing a typical household with two wage-earners around $2,500 per year.
Columbia – “murders and threats”: A report issued Monday by Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and James McGovern (D-Mass.) titled The U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan: Failing on the Ground says, Despite the LAP, murders and threats against union members and harmful subcontracting persist in Colombia largely unabated. At a minimum, 413 threats were documented, and 22 trade unionists were murdered for their union involvement in 2012.1 On April 1, 2013, the 991st death threat against a member of the labor movement was received since President Juan Manuel Santos became president in June 2011.2 Because of the fear of violence or employer retaliation associated with organizing or joining a union and the prevalence of anti-union and anti-worker prejudice, only four percent of Colombian workers are union members.
[. . .] “The members of the delegation conclude that the Government of Colombia is woefully falling short of compliance with the Labor Action Plan, and in many cases, these shortfalls have made working conditions for workers worse than before it came into effect,” the report said. “Before asking Congress to approve another trade agreement, such as the TPP, which poses similar labor and human rights issues, the Administration must first demonstrate concrete and effective improvements in workers’ rights on the ground in Colombia under the Labor Action Plan.”
Korea: EPI reported in July that the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement had already cost the U.S. 40,000 jobs and increased our trade deficit by $5.8 billion. According to EPI, The tendency to distort trade model results was evident in the Obama administration’s insistence that increasing exports under KORUS would support 70,000 U.S. jobs. The administration neglected to consider jobs lost from the increasing imports and a growing bilateral trade deficit. In the year after KORUS took effect, the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea increased by $5.8 billion, costing more than 40,000 U.S. jobs. Most of the 40,000 jobs lost were good jobs in manufacturing.Promises, Promises
The Politico story quoted above claims that President Obama is criticized for “moving too slowly on trade.” If anything, President Obama is criticized for promising in his 2008 campaign to renegotiate NAFTA, and reneging once in office.
Article from The Age newspaper
Australians are likely to pay more for medicines in coming years if intellectual property proposals contained in the powerful Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement go ahead.
The leaked treaty being negotiated by Australia and the US with 10 other Asia-Pacific countries reveals a range of measures that would enhance the ability of drug companies to extend and widen patents on drugs.
It also proposes compensation for companies that face delays in the granting or extension of patents, along with measures to ensure data exclusivity for companies so they can prevent competitors, specifically manufacturers of generic medicines, from using past clinic data to support new products.
The leaked TPP negotiations suggest drug companies will also be able to extend patent protection beyond the general 20-year limit by patenting different aspects of their products, such as an active ingredient, for a new use later. This process is called "evergreening".
While these proposals would arguably encourage the research and development of new drugs and boost the profits of large drug companies, which are mainly concentrated in the US, they would inevitably delay the generic manufacturing of drugs that reduce prices.
Put simply, the longer a patent lasts, the longer it takes for manufacturers to produce generic drugs at a cheaper cost. The reason medicines cost more under patents is because they in effect give companies an exclusive licence to manufacture a drug they have developed to be sold at a price they set.
When a patent expires, other companies can use the intellectual property to copy the drug and market it as generic.
In Australia, the cost of longer patents could be significant. At the moment, drugs listed on the government's $10billion Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme are almost always under a patent. However, when they come off patent, they are immediately 16 per cent cheaper. This saving flows through to Australian taxpayers, who fund the PBS, and also reduces the co-payments patients can face when buying PBS-listed drugs.
Increased cost of medicines will continue a trend towards higher annual out-of-pocket healthcare costs, which almost doubled from an average of $583 in 2000 to $1075 in 2010, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.MOVIES
The Australian film industry estimates it loses more than $1 billion a year to digital piracy.
Australia has a disproportionately high level of movie piracy.
Research conducted last year by the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation found 27 per cent of Australians access illegal movies and television content online regularly.MUSIC
The parliamentary inquiry into IT pricing found that Australians were paying more than others for digital music – $2.19 for an iTunes song, compared with $1.39 in the US.
Choice has said one in every seven Australians regularly breaks the law when copying music and video to their mobile devices because of Australia’s antiquated copyright laws.COMPUTER GAMES
An analysis of submissions to the IT inquiry found Australians were paying up to 84 per cent more for computer games than those in the US.
In its submission, Choice highlighted that the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 game cost $89.99 in Australia compared with $20.34 in the US.DRUGS AND MEDICINES
In 2010-11, the Australian medicines industry had a turnover of more than $22 billion dollars.
Australia’s total recurrent health expenditure in 2010-11 was just under $124 billion. Medicines make up 15 per cent of that.
In 2010-11 overall expenditure on prescription medicines was close to $16 billion.
Recently Wikileaks offered a reward for the text of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A people's hero must have stepped forward because today Wikileaks released the full text of the chapter on Intellectual Property Rights. Click here to see their report (http://wikileaks.org/tpp/) .
The TPP has been kept secret by the Obama Administration for nearly 4 years because they know that if people find out what is in it, they will strongly oppose it. Their worst fears have been confirmed today with the release of the text, as have our suspicions that the TPP was a huge power grab by transnational corporations. The texts reveal that the United States is isolated in bullying other countries to go against the health and desires of their people and that those countries have been pushing back.
The TPP has been negotiated with the assistance of more than 600 corporate advisers while Congress has been largely excluded from the process. The President is pushing Congress to give him Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority so he can sign the agreement before Congress has a chance to vote on it. Under Fast Track, Congress would have limited time to review and debate the TPP and would not have the power to amend it, only to vote up or down on it.
The Obama Administration hoped to have the TPP signed into law by the end of the year, but momentum is building to keep that from happening. This month, two resolutions were passed in Wisconsin opposing the TPP and other local governments are in the process of doing the same.This week, letters were sent by coalitions of members from both parties in Congress opposing the President's request that they give up their responsibility to oversee commerce and fully review the contents of the TPP. Last night, actions were held in a dozen cities across the country to shine a light on the TPP. In less than a month, on December 3 (http://www.flushthetpp.org/call-to-action-december-3-international-day-of-action-against-toxic-trade-agreements/) , people all around the world are planning actions to oppose the World trade Organization and toxic trade agreements.
We are winning this battle against corporations that put their profits before people and the planet, that are willing to exploit and destroy to amass more treasure. The opportunity is here to insist that trade is fair, just and sustainable. We ask you to help us reach the tipping point by forcing the corporate media to cover the TPP (there has been a virtual blackout on this topic). We can do this by widely exposing the leaked TPP text in the citizen media. As word spreads about this, the corporate media will have to get on board or lose credibility for missing one of the hottest stories today.
** Please join us in sharing the news of the released TPP text in your social media networks.------------------------------------------------------------
This item is from "watchdog".
This is the trade scam NAFTA globalized, a devil's deal that has nothing to do with trade and everything to do with corporate protectionism — of the 29 chapters in the TPP, only FIVE actually cover trade issues! Lax food safety regulation, unregulated fracking, overseas job shifts, rocketing drug prices, Internet monopolies, slashes to public services to profit Wall Street robbers... these are just some of the effects the TPP's passing will have on our world.
Don't let voting nations pass this corporate coup d'etat. Call on the US, Canada, Japan and other nations considering the trade deal to back out of the TPP now!
PETITION TO TRADING NATIONS: Don't sacrifice our rights, liberties and economic independence to profit corporations and monopolize trade. Vote against joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership now.Click here to sign -- it just takes a second.
P.S. If the other links aren't working for you, please go here to sign: http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/4012?n=44110470.BVNC2B
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a global trade agreement being secretly negotiated by 600 multinational corporations and industry trade groups, will affect nearly every aspect of Americans’ lives. If passed, it will undermine state, local and federal laws, including those governing food safety, environmental protection, internet freedom, worker rights, democratic sovereignty, healthcare and drug prices, and banking and finance regulation.
It’s bad enough that Congress and the public have been shut out of these negotiations, while corporations are running the show. But even worse, the Obama Administration wants to ram the TPP through Congress using a Nixon-era process called Fast Track.
Please ask your representatives and senators to vote against giving President Obama Fast Track Trade Authority and insist that Congress fulfills its constitutional mandate to write the laws and set trade policy.
Fast Track strips Congress of its authority to control the content of a trade deal and hands that authority over to the executive branch. Congress gets a vote, but only after the negotiations have been completed, and the agreements have been signed.
Here are just a few examples of how the TPP threatens food safety and sovereignty:• The TPP would require countries to accept food that meets only the lowest safety standards of the collective participants. That means consumers could soon be eating imported seafood, beef or chicken products that don’t meet even basic U.S. food safety standards, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be powerless to shut down imports of these unsafe food or food ingredients.
This article is from the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper:By Phillip Dorling
WikiLeaks has exposed details of secret trade negotiations that could leave Australians paying more for drugs and medicines, movies, computer games and software, and be placed under surveillance as part of a US-led crackdown on internet piracy.
A leaked draft of a controversial chapter of the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement reveals the negotiating positions of 12 countries – including Australia – on copyright, patents and other intellectual property issues, with a heavy focus on enforcement measures against internet piracy.
Intellectual property experts are critical of the draft treaty, which they say would help the multinational movie and music industries, software giants and pharmaceutical manufacturers to maintain and increase prices by reinforcing the rights of copyright and patent owners, clamping down on online piracy and raising obstacles to the introduction of generic drugs and medicines.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated that he is keen to see the trade talks pushed to a conclusion next month, saying "there’s always horse-trading in these negotiations, but in the end ... everyone is better off"’.
An expert in intellectual property law, Matthew Rimmer, said the draft was "very prescriptive" and strongly reflected US trade objectives and multinational corporate interests "with little focus on the rights and interests of consumers, let alone broader community interests".
"One could see the TPP as a Christmas wish-list for major corporations, and the copyright parts of the text support such a view," Dr Rimmer said.
"Hollywood, the music industry, big IT companies such as Microsoft and the pharmaceutical sector would all be very happy with this." The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recently excluded journalists from TPP industry briefings held in anticipation of the next round of negotiations, which begins in Salt Lake City, Utah, next week.
Dr Rimmer said that Australia appeared "generally supportive" of the US or otherwise "quite passive" in the negotiations. The leaked draft shows that the US and Japan oppose wording, supported by most of the other countries, that highlights the importance of "maintain[ing] a balance between the rights of intellectual property holders and the legitimate interests of users and the community".
In April, the then US ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich, accused Australian consumers of habitually stealing copyrighted content and of being "some of the worst offenders with amongst the highest piracy rates ... in the world". New federal Attorney-General George Brandis has signalled his intention to introduce more stringent copyright laws to crack down on online piracy.
The leaked treaty text also reveals new American and Japanese proposals designed to enhance the ability of pharmaceutical manufacturers to extend and widen their patents on drugs and medicines.
Proposals with the potential to impact significantly on Australia’s Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme include a requirement that patents be available for new uses of existing drugs, effectively allowing for the "ever-greening" of existing patents. The proposals also include compensation to companies for delays in the granting or extension of patents, and measures to ensure data exclusivity.
This would enable companies to prevent competitors, specifically manufacturers of generic medicines, from using past clinical safety data to support approval of new products.
Australia is recorded as having indicated opposition to these proposals, but the strength of this is unclear as neither the former Labor government nor the new Coalition government has publicly challenged the US position.
The draft text also shows that Australian negotiators have not sought any specific exemption to protect Australia’s tobacco plain-packaging laws from the treaty’s strong protection for the rights of trademark owners.
The Australian Greens spokesman on communications and the digital economy, Scott Ludlam, described the treaty as "hugely dangerous" and said people should be "deeply concerned about what is being negotiated".
Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson on Wednesday moved a motion that calls on Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb to table the draft text of the TPP agreement in the Senate.
However, a spokesman for Mr Robb said the treaty negotiations would remain confidential but insisted there had been "a lot of consultation across all industry sectors that could be impacted by the agreement".
WikiLeaks has condemned the TPP negotiations as a "corporatist trade deal".
Donation pledges to WikiLeaks exceeding $US73,000 ($A78,000) have been crowdsourced to support the publication of the TPP negotiating text.
The full text of the leaked negotiating text can by found at www.wikileaks.org
Item from the Greens Peter Wishart-Whilson:
Last night a chapter of the Government’s secret deal was leaked - but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The deal - the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement - is the biggest trade deal in Australia’s history.
And it’s huge. It covers everything from giving America the right to put Australian internet users under surveillance to giving multinational pharmaceutical companies more power - threatening access to affordable medicines for Australians and our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Deals this big can’t be kept secret: Click here to demand Tony Abbott makes the TPPA text public.
Successive governments have been keeping this deal quiet. We now have a small piece of the TPPA puzzle. But we know from other leaks that this agreement could place at risk human rights, public health, the environment, climate, internet freedom, privacy, labour rights, food labelling, purchase of agricultural lands and more.
Secrecy is no way to trade. Tony Abbott must tell us what he is preparing to trade away.
Thanks for all that you do,Peter
P.S. Abbott is trying to keep this a secret from ordinary Australians - like you. Add your voice and tell the Prime Minister that it’s your right to know:
LESBIAN & GAY SOLIDARITY
Red Jos: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM
Mannie and Kendall Present: LESBIAN AND GAY SOLIDARITY ACTIVISMS
Mannie's weblogs may be accessed directly by clicking on to the following links
MannieBlog (to December 2005)
Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009
RED JOS BLOGSPOT (From January 2009 onwards)
This page created on 13 OCTOBER 2013 and updated 23 NOVEMBER 2016