The zombie TPP is back

Eleven Pacific Rim countries, including Australia, reached a deal to resurrect the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

OK, it’s (almost) official. The zombie Trans-Pacific Partnership, widely criticised as a huge, undemocratic corporate power grab, has been restored to life

What’s the latest move and is it irreversible? In Japan on January 24, 11 Pacific Rim countries, including Australia, reached a deal to resurrect the TPP — a year to the day after United States President Donald Trump announced the US was withdrawing.

The draft text remains unchanged, except for some provisions around institutional rules for the deal, the wording of which we have yet to see.

Some items will be suspended, pending the US re-entry. These include most, but not all, of the really toxic rules that would expand the profits of Big Pharma, Hollywood and multinationals such as Google.

Changes to measures around the right of foreign companies to sue the government have been trimmed around the edges, but the main legal risks and corporate powers remain untouched.

All this was settled by the last ministerial meeting in Vietnam in December. There were four outstanding issues, including Canada’s demand for a stronger cultural exception.

The Canadian government was seen as the main stumbling block. In Japan, Canada cemented a deal that involves side letters on culture, as well as protecting local content of automobiles. That is still not going to be an easy sell for Canada’s Justin Trudeau government at home, but by playing hardball it at least won some concessions.

The signing is set for Chile on March 8. Japan has suggested the new text may not be released until after it is signed — including the side letters that Canada and some other countries have negotiated. The travesty of democracy lives on.

There is still time to put the feet of governments that support the deal to the fire ahead of March 8. But the longer-term game is the domestic ratification process, and raising the political price of ratifying the deal.

[Abridged from the New Zealand-based The Daily Blog.]

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