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TPP – 1: intensifying the corporate-political nexus or ‘open, free, transparent and fair’?

In 2007, negotiations began for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a significantly expanded version of the 2005 agreement, encompassing a larger group of countries. At its heart is the intellectual property chapter with a long section on patents.

Other sections:

  • Internet – regulation
  • Health – focus on patents and pharmaceutical data protection
  • Agriculture – plant patents & technical test data
In November 2011 a smiling President Obama formally launched the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In the Financial Times David Pilling quoted the noble announcement by Obama’s right hand in many disturbing ventures, Hillary Clinton: “We must create a rules-based order – one that is open, free, transparent and fair.”

America, she says, is uniquely placed to create such an order and to police it. “We are the only power with a network of strong alliances in the region, no territorial ambitions, and a long record of providing for the common good.”

Currently involved:

Yesterday Reuters reported that the United States is hosting the 14th round of negotiations on the proposed TPP pact outside Washington with Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. Canada and Mexico will join the negotiations when countries meet for their 15th round in December.

The TPP aims to abolish traditional trade barriers and address concerns about “state-owned enterprises” that increasingly compete with private companies.

In August 2012, Robert Naiman of the Huffington Post reported that Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders said that promoting restrictive trade policies would make it much harder for patients, governments and treatment providers like MSF to access affordable, life-saving price-lowering generic drugs: “[T]he U.S. is asking countries to create new, enhanced and longer patent and data monopoly protections for multinational pharmaceutical companies so they can keep competitors out of the market and charge higher prices for longer.”

An accurate summary?

Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) -largely funded by American unions and charitable foundations – wrote last month in the Guardian:

“In reality, the deal has almost nothing to do with trade: actual trade barriers between these countries are already very low. The TPP is an effort to use the holy grail of free trade to impose conditions and override domestic laws in a way that would be almost impossible if the proposed measures had to go through the normal legislative process.

“The expectation is that by lining up powerful corporate interests, governments will be able to ram this new “free trade” pact through legislatures on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. As with all these multilateral agreements, the intention is to spread its reach through time. That means that anything the original parties to the TPP accept is likely to be imposed later on other countries in the region, and quite likely, on the rest of the world”#