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Jan 04

The Guts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Senator Bernie Sanders voiced his disagreement to President Obama’s big trade deal. Organized labor in the U.S. argued, during the negotiations, that the trade deal would largely benefit corporations at the expense of workers in the manufacturing and service industries. The Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Economic and Policy Research have argued that the TPP could result in job losses and declining wages.

Obama was granted fast-track authority to negotiate this and other trade contracts with various countries. Obama contended that this authority was important to completing the TPP then sending it to Congress for a vote. The Senate won’t have the ability to delay the TPP and lawmakers will not be able to change it. Supporters say that the TPP would force China to increase standards and regulations.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP has become additionally politically combative with groups worried about trade contracts. The TPP is not the only one, but it is a very big one and the negotiations are complete.

It began with a trade contract between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore that came into effect in 2006. That arrangement detached tariffs, intellectual property, and trading policies on most goods traded between the countries. The TPP has grown into a giant free trade deal between the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru. TPP wants to extend economic bonds between these nations, cutting tariffs on goods and services, and raising trade to increase growth. The 12 countries have a population of about 800 million and are accountable for 40% of the world’s GDP and 26% of the world’s trade. The deal is a notable achievement given the very different approaches and standards within the member countries mention the special protections that some countries have for certain industries. That makes it roughly the same size as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, another trade contract currently being used. The contract could make a new single marketplace like the EU.

After too many years of American foreign policy being bogged down in the Middle East, the Obama administration is aiming its focus on Asia. The TPP is the focus of the US economic re-balancing and a stage for regional monetary integration. Some say the TPP goes further, as an effort to contain China and provide a monetary counterbalance to it in the area. Many parts of the TPP are designed to exclude China. The TPP is thought to be a strategy to keep China contained.

Most of the disapproval for the TPP has been for the mysterious consultations, in which countries were planning to be bringing in large changes for the countries’ futures without voters’ knowledge. But much of what has been exposed involves changes to intellectual property, state owned property, and international courts. The TPP, as well as other trade deals, have a wide array of regulatory and legal concerns that make the deals influential on foreign policy and US lawmaking.

Information on the TPP’s effect on intellectual property has exposed that the U.S. has been forcing tougher copyright security for music and film, as well as more comprehensive and longer-lasting patents. The TPP would also increase the difficulty of the approval procedure for generic drug makers and extend protections for biologic medicines, which has concerned members of Congress. Public health and internet groups have campaigned hard against the TPP for a long time about these matters because it may restrict public access to knowledge.

Many TPP governments basically own huge portions of their economies. Discussions have intended to limit public support for public sector businesses in order to raise competition with the private sector. But some assert it gives companies the ability to sue governments that change policy to favor public-provided services. The TPP will is also said to increase competition between nations’ work forces.

After World War II, investors were concerned about investing money in 3rd world countries, where the legal systems were not as reliable. They were concerned that an investment is made in country one day only to watch a dictator repossess it later. Enter the provision called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The ISDS was installed in previous trade contracts, and is installed in the TPP, to encourage foreign investment in countries with weak legal systems. The ISDS could lead to huge penalties in the event that steps are taken of a country confiscating corporate assets. The ISDS provision in the TPP would also tip the balance of power in the US further in favor of huge multinational corporations and weaken U.S. autonomy.