The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is 12-nation (and counting) free trade and corporate rights deal that is being led by the United States but also includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Thailand, The Philippines and South Korea have also expressed interest in joining the talks, which would eclipse the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the ways democracy would be constrained in the interests of multinational corporations.
Of the 26 chapters currently being negotiated in the TPP, only two have to do with trade. The other 24 deal with issues as diverse as how a government regulates corporate activity, what Crown corporations can and cannot do, how long pharmaceutical patents or copyright terms should be, how the Internet is governed, the sharing of personal information across borders, banking and taxation rules, and when a company or investor should be compensated when environmental or public health policies interfere with profits.
The TPP is also considered a geopolitical weapon of the U.S. government, which is trying to isolate China in the Asia-Pacific region, and to block alternative, and more successful, forms of development than the “free trade” model has to offer. But the TPP is being resisted by people across all participating countries because of how it will lock-in a myopic type of corporate globalization that is the main cause of runaway climate change and which has done little to create good, sustainable jobs or reduce poverty worldwide. People working across borders fought and defeated the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Our goal is to make sure the TPP suffers the same fate.
The TPP directly threatens:
Public health and access to medicines: The U.S. is using the TPP to push for excessive patent protections and other intellectual property rights that are guaranteed to make medication much more expensive in Canada and even inaccessible to the poorest countries involved in the negotiations. Across the world, health advocates claim it is a matter of life and death that we say no to these changes in the TPP.
Environmental protection measures: The TPP will include an environment chapter that U.S. negotiators would like to be enforceable. But the 11 other TPP countries, including Canada, object to the idea that protecting the environment is as important as protecting corporations from government regulation. The reality is the TPP cannot and does not pretend to help reduce emissions or protect the earth. It will however put a screen on all environmental policies to make sure they do not hurt trade and investment. The only winner from this situation is climate change.
Access to knowledge and the open Internet: The U.S. wants TPP countries to change their copyright laws in ways that restrict the open Internet, make it illegal to circumvent digital locks on copyrighted material even for non-infringing purposes, stifle innovation, raise the prices of books, CDs and movies, and reduce economic opportunities to businesses, creators and the public. The dream of a democratic world-wide web is fading but still there. The TPP would make the dream much harder to realize.
Community-led public policy: Like NAFTA, the TPP will include an investor rights chapter and investor–state dispute process that lets companies sue governments in secret tribunals when public policies get in the way of profits. The polices or decisions can be legal and fair (i.e. they treat national and foreign firms identically), or designed to effectively protect the environment or public health, and still face corporate lawsuits demanding hundreds of millions, and sometimes billions of dollars in compensation. Canada has lost or settled five such claims under NAFTA costing the public over $160 million. Leaked texts show the TPP will create even more opportunities than in NAFTA for corporations to challenge public decisions. This powerful tool of corporate rule, designed to undermine democracy, is reason enough to stop the TPP.
We need to amplify the simple demand of legislators across seven TPP countries: Expose the TPP and give the public a say before it is signed.