Calling for an end to secret negotiations, opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), announced that they would be holding demonstrations and other events when representatives of 11 Pacific Rim nations meet July 2 through July 10 in San Diego to negotiate the new trade partnership that its opponents describe as “NAFTA on steroids.”
Countries sending representatives to San Diego are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the US. The Obama Administration hopes that a final agreement can be hammered out by December 2012.
The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council will greet negotiators with a 12 noon rally and press conference near the Hilton Bayfront and Convention Center where negotiations will take place. The Citizens Trade Campaign will be holding national days of action against TPP between July 1 and July 7. A coalition organized by Occupy San Diego and Occupy City Heights will hold a number of local actions while TPP representatives are in town.
Opponents in other countries have also mounted resistance to TPP. According to the website of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, TPP “will stop future New Zealand governments from doing things that are in the interest of working people and most New Zealanders.” As a result, the council has initiated contacts with labor federations in other countries and is working to build an international movement to oppose TPP.
A recently leaked TPP chapter on investments, opponents say, shows that the proposed partnership agreement will expand the rights of transnational corporations at the expense of the common good.
According to an analysis by Public Citizen, the leaked chapter “reveals a two-track legal system, with foreign firms empowered to skirt domestic courts and laws to directly sue TPP governments in foreign tribunals. There they can demand compensation for domestic financial, health, environmental, land use laws and other laws they claim undermine their new TPP privileges.”
“We are just beginning to analyze the (leaked chapter) now, but (it) clearly contains proposals designed to give transnational corporations special rights that go far beyond those possessed by domestic businesses and American citizens,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign.
The leaked chapter contains language that expands the jurisdiction of international tribunals that rule on investor complaints about government laws, rules, and regulations that may result in reduced profits. NAFTA established similar procedures for resolving these complaints through international tribunals. As a result, Canada, Mexico, and the US have been fined a total of $326.9 million for infringing on the privileges of transnational corporations.
One such ruling resulted in a $16.7 million fine for Mexico because it denied a toxic waste dump permit to the Metalclad Corporation of the US. The permit was denied because the toxic waste dump threatened to contaminate the local water supply in La Pedrera, San Luis Potosi.
Opponents point out that the leaked chapter has other problems: It limits governments’ ability to regulate and control capital. The lack of these regulations played a leading role in the financial crash of 20o8. It makes it more difficult for countries to tax financial transactions, and it requires governments to remove restrictions on foreign firms obtaining government procurement contracts. Removing these restrictions could lead to more privatization of services and resources.
On the whole, TPP less about free trade and more about creating special privileges for transnational corporations. For example , pharmaceutical companies would be protected from regulations such as those in New Zealand that keep the price of prescription drugs affordable.
Protection of the free flow of information and knowledge would also be limited because countries that sign TPP will have to adopt strict copyright laws similar to those already adopted by the US.
Opponents of TPP have criticized the secret nature of the negotiations. In May, opponents delivered a petition with 42,000 signatures to the TPP meeting in Addison, Texas. The petition demanded that the negotiations be more transparent so that the public can know how the agreement will affect their health, safety, jobs, and well-being.
While the negotiations have remained off limits to the public, 600 corporate lobbyists have had access to the negotiators and are shaping its final outcome.