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Journalist: Trans-Pacific Partnership poses great danger to the poor

12:11 | 11.05.2015 | Analytic

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11 May 2015. PenzaNews. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that has been in active development since 2008 represents a threat to the poor and may lead to complete domination of profit-oriented multinational corporations, says Michael Candelaars, Australian journalist and political activist, in his article “A Treaty to Outlaw Democracy” published in the foreign media.

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Many analysts, he points out, compare the TPP agreement with the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), already a topic of dispute for many politicians and economists on both sides of the ocean.

According to Michael Candelaars, the talks, held behind closed doors to avoid scrutiny, involve 12 countries that represent 40% of the world’s GDP, and the secrecy measures are enforced to such a point that the text of the agreement will be released into the public domain no sooner than four years after having been signed.

The public learned about the preliminary contents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement only thanks to WikiLeaks that has been publishing draft versions of the treaty since 2013, the journalist reminds.

“These leaks have exposed how the rich and powerful are conspiring to make tougher the lives of millions of people across the globe,” the Australian political activist writes.

The most alarming point of the TPP, he explains, is the establishment of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system that would allow any corporation to demand reparations for lost potential profits through a special arbitration system, if the company finds any local law to interfere with its business activities.

In addition, Michael Candelaars remarks, such cases would be reviewed not in the court of the defendant country but in a special international body and with no right of appeal, which is a serious breach of any country’s right to make its own laws.

From his point of view, the consequences of the ISDS system introduction can be clearly seen in the Canadian province of Quebec. The American corporation Lone Pine Resources Inc. demands $250 million from the provincial government in compensation of the loss of future profits after the local authorities introduced a ban on gas fracking due to the threat it poses to general health and the environment.

“Another important case involves French multinational Veolia, which is suing the Egyptian government under a similar bilateral agreement for increasing the minimum wage,” the journalist continues.

Moreover, he points out, the TPP agreement chapter dedicated to environment protection contains nothing more than a set of unenforceable and optional recommendations, in spite of numerous international summits and conferences on the industrial pollution issue held throughout the last few years. However, even such mild non-binding clauses cause the outrage of some states.

“One section recommends that countries discuss ways of dealing with climate change; Australia and the US are lobbying to have even that suggestion removed,” the author writes.

In his opinion, such treatment of the environment, combined with the ISDS system project, may lead to a situation where multinational corporations are granted rights to punish any attempts of the local authorities to protect their natural ecosystems from desolation.

“As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman once remarked, ‘The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist’,” Michael Kandelaars stresses.

He also notes that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement includes new intellectual property protection measures that will first and foremost endanger the freedom of Internet users and the whole World Wide Web with them.

“The provisions would allow companies such as AOL Time Warner the right to order the shutting down of websites they claim infringe copyright, and to obtain the details of anyone who allegedly downloads that content. This will turn Internet service providers into a police force for these companies,” Michael Candelaars thinks.

The red flags can already be seen in his homeland, Australia, he points out.

“This is already beginning to happen with the recent court victory of Dallas Buyers Club LLC against Australian ISP iiNet. The court ruled that iiNet must hand over the residential address of everyone alleged to have downloaded the movie,” the author writes, calling such court verdicts baby steps towards a strict regime of Internet surveillance for commercial needs.

Moreover, the political activist points out, the TPP measures of intellectual property protection will deal a severe blow to the worldwide healthcare system.

“The commodification of all goods, even lifesaving drugs, means the research to develop new therapies is not driven by a desire to heal the sick. The incentive to make new discoveries is the profit associated with securing a patent. Typically, patents expire after 20 years, which then allows cheaper generic versions of these medicines to be produced. According to the Journal of the International AIDS Society, 80 percent of anti-retroviral medicines used in the developing world are generic,” Michael Candelaars explains.

According to him, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will grant pharmaceutical corporations the rights to extend their existing patents every 20 years and ban the production of generics, which will cause the medication prices to spike and make the innovative life-saving drugs unaffordable for the majority of the world’s population.

In the end, the author concludes that the new rules of the game the TPP aims to lay down do not meet the true needs of the people living in the countries involved in negotiations.

“Today there is much we still don't know about the TPP. However, we can be certain that workers and the poor are in the firing line. It is conducted in secret to prevent us from knowing the truth of what the rich have in store for us,” the author sums up.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a planned international trade and economic organization that aims to form a free trade zone in the Asian and Pacific region.

The alliance in the works seeks to become an alternative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). The TPP is a part of the US policy to maintain control over the Pacific and create an economic bloc to counter the growing influence of China and Russia.

Together, the TPP countries together with Japan would be representing for 38-40% of the world’s GDP and a quarter of the world trade volume. In comparison to ASEAN+6 with a potential participation of the PRC, the Trans-Pacific Partnership would account for a larger share of GDP but a smaller portion of the world trade. 

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