I am used to the fact that our governments make major decisions behind our backs. But when I hear that a particular international agreement has the potential to impact 40% of the global economic output and it is being discussed entirely behind closed doors, I can’t help but feel ‘uneasy’.
What I am talking about is the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation free trade and corporate rights deal being discussed by the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. 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 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 and corporations.
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. This will stifle innovation, raise the prices of books, CDs and movies, and reduce economic opportunities to businesses and the public. The TPP would make the dream of a democratic world-wide web 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.
NOTE: The content of this post came from http://canadians.org/tpp-info