By Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a massive “free trade” agreement currently being negotiated behind closed doors by officials from the United States and 11 other countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. TPP negotiations started in 2008. The public cannot see the draft TPP text, and even members of Congress, after being denied the text for years, are now only provided limited access. More than 500 official U.S. “trade advisors,” most representing large corporations, have access. The Obama administration hopes to sign the TPP in late 2014. It is being designed as a “docking” agreement that would be open for other countries, such as China, Russia and Indonesia, to later join.
Although it is called a “free trade” agreement, the TPP is not really mainly about trade. Of the TPP’s 29 draft chapters, only five deal with traditional trade issues. Most would set rules on non-trade matters that affect our daily lives – medicine costs, food safety, Internet freedom, financial regulation and more. Existing and future U.S. domestic policies would be required to comply with the TPP’s rules. These constraints on policy space would be binding: failure to comply with TPP rules could result in trade sanctions being imposed against the United States unless and until we would change our policies to meet TPP requirements. The pact would also newly empower foreign corporations, including pharmaceutical firms, to directly challenge public interest policies and demand taxpayer compensation in extrajudicial tribunals. Unlike domestic laws, the TPP would have no expiration date, and any changes to its terms would require the consensus of all signatory nations.