Trans-Pacific Partnership Deal Struck As "Corporate Secrecy" Wins Again

Tyler Durden's picture

Once again the corporatocracy wins as the so-called "Trojan horse" Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement has been finalized. As WSJ reports, the U.S., Japan and 10 countries around the Pacific reached a historic accord Monday to lower trade barriers to goods and services and set commercial rules of the road for two-fifths of the global economy, officials said.

For the U.S., the TPP (reportedly) opens agricultural markets in Japan and Canada, tightens intellectual property rules to benefit drug and technology companies, and establishes a tightknit economic bloc to challenge China’s influence in the region (likely forcing their hand into separate trade agreements).

However, Obama is likely to face a tough fight to get the deal through Congress (especially in light of presidential candidates' opposition).

The US, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim economies have reached agreement to strike the largest trade pact seen anywhere in two decades, in what is a huge strategic and political win for US President Barack Obama and Japan’s Shinzo Abe.

As The Wall Street Journal reports,

The deal, if approved by Congress, will mark an effective expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement launched two decades ago to include Japan, Australia, Chile, Peru and several southeast Asian nations.

 

The trade deal has been in the works since 2008 but has been stymied by politically sensitive disputes, including a fight between the U.S. and Japan over the automobile industry.

 

Beyond that, however, it represents the economic backbone of the Obama administration’s strategic “pivot” to Asia and a response to the rise of the US’s chief rival, China, and its growing regional and global influence. It is also a key component of the “third arrow” of economic reforms that Mr Abe has been pursuing in Japan since taking office in 2012.

Biotechs, among others, are the big winners...

In pharmaceuticals and other industries, U.S. officials sought a deal that would be acceptable to other countries and as many members of Congress as possible, without triggering the outright opposition of a major business group. Many Democratic lawmakers and groups backing generic drugs and less expensive medicine didn’t want any more than five years of exclusivity for biologic drugs, and it wasn’t immediately clear if the compromise in the TPP would satisfy their concerns.

 

One of the last disputes to be resolved pitted Australia against the U.S., which was seeking up to 12 years of protection for biologic drugs against generic imitators. The two countries reached a complicated compromise that provides at least five and potentially up to eight years of exclusivity for biologics. Chile, Peru and other countries remained concerned about adding to the price of drugs through long exclusivity periods, according to people following the talks.

 

In another last-minute deal, Canada and Japan agreed to increase access to their tightly controlled dairy markets, allowing some American dairy products in, but New Zealand also persuaded the U.S. to accept more of its milk products. The sour milk fight caught the attention of Congress, where Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), two lawmakers overseeing trade policy, demanded that dairy producers in their states gain more access to Canadian consumers, a sensitive concession for Canada during its own election season.

 

But critics remain vocal...

U.S. labor unions and their allies among consumer and environmental groups are among the biggest critics of the TPP. The left-wing opposition has prevented Mr. Obama from getting many fellow Democrats—already skeptical of the deal’s benefits to U.S. workers—to support his trade policy.

 

An array of Republican lawmakers object to provisions that would strengthen the influence of labor groups, impinge on the ability of tobacco companies to fight against packaging rules and other laws overseas, and possibly harm local industries, from dairy farmers to sugar.

So it isn't over yet... (as The FT reports)

The deal announced on Monday by trade ministers from the 12 countries still must be signed formally by the countries’ leaders and ratified by their parliaments. In the US Mr Obama is likely to face a tough fight to get the deal through Congress next year, especially as presidential candidates like Republican frontrunner Donald Trump have argued against the TPP.

 

Only a handful of Democrats support Mr. Obama’s trade policy, and Republican support is unpredictable in the 2016 election year, depending on the stance of presidential candidates and new leadership in the House. As it is, the deal can’t go to a vote before Congress until early next year.

 

The odds of passage in Congress will hinge in large part on the final language in a number of provisions, ranging from the strengthening of rights for labor unions to whether U.S. cigarette companies will face special limitations within TPP countries.

 

“I will carefully scrutinize it to see whether my concerns about rushing into a deal before meeting all U.S. objectives are justified,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement Sunday before the deal was completed.

 

Critics around the world have also lambasted the deal for being negotiated in secret and being biased towards corporations, criticisms that are likely to be amplified when the national legislatures seek to ratify the TPP in the months to come.

*  *  *

Finally, as we detailed previously, the most troubling aspect of the TPP, asserts Ellen Brown, is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision, which “first appeared in a bilateral trade agreement in 1959.” Brown continues:

According to The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law … that [negatively impacts] corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing nuclear catastrophe.

Imagine a scenario in which the U.S., coming to its senses about climate change, imposes a revenue-neutral carbon fee on fossil energy. According to provisions of the TPP, a fossil-fuel company in a signatory nation could then sue the U.S. for lost profits, real or imagined.

The threat is not idle. In 2012, the U.S.’s Occidental Petroleum received an ISDS settlement of $2.3 billion from the government of Ecuador because of that country’s apparently legal termination of an oil-concession contract. Currently, the Swedish nuclear-power utility Vattenfall is suing the German government for $4.7 billion in compensation, following Germany’s phase-out of nuclear plants in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

The ISDS provisions of the TPP are insidious: the means by which signatory nations voluntarily surrender national sovereignty to the authority of corporate tribunals, without appeal, and apparently without exit provisions. No wonder the negotiations are secret.

Packaged as a gift to the American people that will renew industry and make us more competitive, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a Trojan horse. It’s a coup by multinational corporations who want global subservience to their agenda. Buyer beware. Citizens beware.