Monday, February 10, 2014

The TPP why so Secret

     Power politics has asserted itself again, the usual players have begun leaning on each other in typical fashion. This time the political jockeying concerns a trade agreement labeled the Trans-Pacific-Partnership (TPP). On January 30th house speaker Boehner, criticized the president for not being able to whip his party into shape and fast track the TPP without debate or amendments onto the president's desk for signing. Days later senate majority leader Reid announced he was against the very procedure Boehner was advocating. Deep divides among congressional democrats and republicans is nothing new, but to see Boehner, agree with policy the president is in favor of and to have Harry Reid exert his will against said policy is something new.
      The TPP is tightly shrouded in secrecy. It is impossible to get verified information concerning exactly what is in this "trade agreement". It is also rumored that the parties who have solid info on the TPP have been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements. All of the information available on the TPP, is from leaks. The heads of state and corporate negotiators involved have not once willingly given the public, or public interest organizations, any information. From the little information that has been leaked on the TPP it appears the goal is to subvert local governments to the influence of big business, which in turn will mean new inflated profits for big business at the expense of the citizens living within the hosts nations (the U.S included). This will be done through a series of strict intellectual property (IP) laws. These new IP laws will seek to control access to the internet, file sharing, and patent law as they pertain to everything from seeds to medicine to digital copy.

      The patent law part of the IP provisions is important. These provisions will affect the amount of time things like medications and hospital equipment will be shielded by arbitrary and extended patent laws. Generic manufacturers will be bared by supranational laws from providing cheaper prices particularly on life saving medicine and medical procedures. As we witness in the U.S, these kinds of patent laws as they relate to medication prevents the sick and elderly from receiving aid unless they are able to pay a steep cost per pill (medications are sometimes several dollars per pill even with good health insurance providers). The TPP is estimated to affect sixty percent of global GDP. The IP provision as it relates to big pharma will put profits over people on a scale never seen before. "It also means that countries like Japan, Australia and New Zealand that have national health care systems will see the cost of healthcare rise to a breaking point, undermining some of the best health systems in the world."*
      These new supranational IP laws will be enforced not by the host countries, but by foreign tribunals. How these tribunals will be appointed is still unverifiable, but the idea behind this is to give business interests a path towards retribution if local governments were to pass any kind of regulation that said business interests deem to be outside of their respective pursuits.

     I cannot claim to call myself an objective voice on this subject. That being said, what if we were to throw out the information that has been leaked, start from scratch on what we know about the TPP and attempt to be objective for a second. I have to ask why is there such rabid commitment to secrecy by all parties who have been invited to the negotiating table? (my second of attempted objectivity is over) I argue that this obvious secrecy is to cloak this piece of supranational legislation behind a veil because it will be wholly unpopular for everyone involved who isn't bought and paid for by the multinational corporations. 

      Who will the TPP be unpopular for? Everyone who will face his or her constituents in this year's election (thirty-six senators and 435 members of the house) is the answer I would like to give, but that answer is closely related to party affiliation like most other issues in congress. If the TPP was a positive trade agreement for the U.S the parties involved would be able to sing praise for the good it will do beyond the tired and over generalized rhetoric of job creation and free trade. If the TPP was a good idea specifics would be available, and this veil of secrecy would be lifted so everyone no matter how far removed from the negotiating process could weigh in like we do for almost every other issue slated to be voted on in congress. This veil of secrecy and the want to have the TPP fast tracked is a renunciation of our democratic process and something we should not allow to happen while we still have a vote and or a voice.

       The long reach of the TPP is horrifying and it spans more than half of the globe. This mix of supranational government and big business has the potential to invade every access point of our lives. We have to remember trade agreements of this size have been historically negative for the working person. Our elected officials claim to represent we the working class and it is encouraging to see senate majority leader Reid stand up to the powers that be as they call for fast tracking. However if Reid is simply posturing because this is an election year in which he hopes to keep control of the senate, then we have our work cut out for us. No matter Reid's future intent we need to keep informing everyone who will listen (forget if they care or not, anyone who will listen). We need to make sure both houses of congress know that a vote in favor of the TPP is a vote that will lead to his or her immediate or eventual ouster from their respective jobs.
       This is blog is double the length I like to borrow your time for. If you got this far thank you very much for reading. This only scratches the surface on this trade agreement issue. In my coming posts I plan to explore the nature of trade agreements, how they differ from treaties, how the TPP and NAFTA fit into a venn-diagram and who the winners and losers have been as seen from a historical perspective.


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