Trans-Pacific Trade Pact Plows Ahead


Negotiators for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP — a global trade pact similar to NAFTA that is being crafted behind closed doors — have held more than a dozen secretive meetings around the world but recently began another series of meetings here in the US — in Salt Lake City, Utah. Overshadowed by the clamor over the troubled Obamacare website, this trade matter has not been reported widely and steadily enough.

Peter Maybarduk, representing Public Citizen in Washington D.C., told this writer that he understands the US planned to use the Utah venue to keep pressuring reluctant TPP nations to see things America’s way in finalizing the TPP’s Intellectual Property Rights chapter, for the benefit of the big business interests, naturally.

Maybarduk took note of the Utah situation in the wake of the whistleblower website Wikileaks releasing a key 95-page negotiation document which provides some new insights into the aggressive development of the TPP. And this leaked Intellectual Property Rights Chapter is just one of 29 chapters of the TPP — a massive trade scheme encompassing the US and 11 other nations on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

The TPP talks started in 2008 and this Wiki “leak” of the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter apparently represents the first access the press and the public have ever had to this text. The TPP “leak” in mid-November also mentioned a younger US-European Union trade scheme.

This writer found during recent travels that a budding US-EU trade pact was promoted at a Brookings Institution program in April. And the same Trans-Atlantic trade scheme was heralded by NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen when he addressed the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Sept. 30. Moreover, both trade pacts were top agenda items at the little-known “Frontiers of Economic Integration” confab held by the plutocratic Business Roundtable (BRT) at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in late October.

Thus, the heavy hitters are reading off the same page and marshaling their forces.

The BRT’s current president is former Michigan Gov. John Engler, a Republican cut from the same cloth as current Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. They are middle men for big money, assigned to sell an anti-union, pro-free trade ideology to local and regional business communities and foster middle-class dismantlement, so America can become even more of a command center for global corporate rule.

The US-EU trade pact that the corporatists are molding while we eat turkey and watch football is formally called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Wikileaks noted: “The TPP is the forerunner to the equally secret US-EU pact ... for which President Obama initiated US-EU negotiations in January 2013. Together, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60% of global GDP. Both pacts exclude China.”

In its Nov. 13 “leak” about the TPP’s Intellectual Property Rights Chapter, Wikileaks also explained: “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 ... 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.”

And we mustn’t assume the Obama administration will rescue the American public. Free trade is bipartisan betrayal. It always has been, especially from Bush the Elder, through Clinton and “Dubya” Bush, to Obama.

“The [Obama] administration has refused to make draft TPP text public, despite announcing intentions to sign the deal by year’s end. ... Previously, some elements of US proposals for the Intellectual Property Chapter of the TPP had been leaked in 2011 and 2012. This leak is the first of a complete chapter revealing all countries’ positions,” Maybarduk observed.

Maybarduk also said that under the TPP, the US seeks to impose “the most extreme demands of Big Pharma and Hollywood, despite the express and frequently universal opposition of US trade partners.” The TPP negotiating partners and civic groups argue that the TPP will undermine access to affordable medicines, to the Internet and even to textbooks. This has caused delays in the TPP talks.

While the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter may force Internet service providers to act as copyright enforcers — to limit or disable access to copyrighted Hollywood products such as movies — it also would enable US drug companies to virtually lock out the availability of generic drugs.

Southern Africa, for example, could be prevented from getting affordable generic medicines to combat major deadly diseases. And even in the US, high-priced drugs could become the only option for Americans suffering from leading killers such as cancer or heart disease when — through trade agreements such as this — generic alternatives are banned or driven to the margins.

Moreover, the manner in which powerful drug corporations and other corporations can sue nations, states and cities — to challenge their laws through secretive trade tribunals according to how agreements like the TPP are crafted — provides these corporate heavyweights with a potent alternative to sending their lobbyists into legislatures.

Mark Anderson is a veteran journalist who divides his time between Texas and Michigan. Email him at

From The Progressive Populist, January 1-15, 2014

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