It's Branded as a Trade Agreement, But What's Really at Stake?
By Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch
Trade officials from twelve Pacific Rim nations—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam— are in intensive, closed-door negotiations to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping Free Trade Agreement (FTA), in 2014. Every Pacific Rim nation from China to Russia could eventually be included. There are draft texts for many of this pact’s 29 chapters, most of which have nothing to do with trade, but rather impose limits on domestic food safety, health, environmental, and other policies. The governments won’t release the texts to the public. But about 600 U.S. corporate “trade advisors” have full access. America’s worst job-offshoring corporations, global banks, agribusiness, and pharmaceutical giants want this deal to be another corporate power tool like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Consumer, labor, environmental, and other public interest advocates want a transparent process and a “Fair Deal or No Deal.”
A major goal of U.S. multinational corporations for the TPP is to impose on more countries a set of extreme foreign investor privileges and rights and their private enforcement through the notorious “investor-state” system. This system allows foreign corporations to challenge before international tribunals national health, consumer safety, environmental, and other laws and regulations that apply to domestic and foreign firms alike. Outrageously, this regime elevates individual corporations and investors to equal standing with each TPP signatory country’s government – and above all of us citizens. This regime empowers corporations to skirt national courts and directly challenge our governments before tribunals of private sector lawyers operating under UN and World Bank rules to demand taxpayer compensation for domestic regulatory policies that investors believe diminish their “expected future profits.” These regulatory policies can range from health and environmental protection to financial regulation. Under this regime, corporations can launch attacks on government medicine patent regulations that ensure access to affordable generic medicine. Indeed, in 2013 the U.S. Eli Lilly Company launched a $481 million NAFTA investor-state case against Canada’s entire basis for granting medicine patents.