Trans-Pacific Partnership text confirms worst fears, spurs calls for action

November 8, 2015

The text of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership — negotiated by 12 Pacific rim nations including Australia — was released on November 5 after a negotiating process shrouded in secrecy.

The release of the much-guarded text of the deal has renewed calls for action to stop the TPP as a “toxic deal” and “disaster for democracy”.

The transnational trade deal, the largest in history and representing about 40% of world GDP, has been widely condemned for privileging corporate profits over international public interest. The secrecy around the deal and the negotiating process, which gave access to large corporations but largely locked out civil society, has been criticised as an assault on democracy.

Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden said in response to the release of the text: “The TPP is a disaster for jobs, and environment and our democracy. It is the latest stage in the corporate capture of our society.”

For Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, the fact that the text of the deal doesn't even include the words “climate change” hints at the kind of corporate sell-off the deal promotes and is “a dead giveaway that this isn't a 21st-century trade deal”.

The TPP is widely seen by critics as a climate disaster. Brune said the lack of protections and “toothless” provisions in the deal's environmental chapter threaten to undermine decades of struggle for the environment.

Campaigners have raised particular alarm over the investor-state arbitration mechanism. This allows corporations to sue governments for enacting policies that infringe on a company's potential future profits.

Trade unions have criticised the corporate dispute settlement mechanism for promoting the outsourcing and off-shoring of local jobs and negatively impacting working conditions.

Others warn that the “corporate court” poses serious threats to the climate. It discourages strong environmental regulations, since corporations will be able to take legal action against governments for public policies such as limiting mining or fossil fuel extraction.

In fact, the text of the deal reveals new and expanded rights for corporations to take such legal action against governments. Analysts say the rules will empower fossil fuel companies and other corporate giants to challenge environmental and other regulations - and ultimately worsen climate change.

Cases like that of Oceana Gold versus El Salvador, in which the mining giant is suing the Central American country for impacting its profits by putting a moratorium on mining activity, offer a glimpse into the kind of corporate power-play the TPP will bring. In the past, there have been more than 600 such corporate challenges to more than 100 government policies through similar mechanisms in other trade deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Global Justice Now's Dearden said the TPP is a “turbo-charged NAFTA”. The 1994 trade deal between Canada, Mexico, and the United States led to more inequality and poverty.

“TPP has less to do with selling more goods, than with rewriting the rules of the global economy in favour of big business,” said Dearden. “Like the North American Free Trade Agreement, 20 years ago, it will be very good for the very richest, and a disaster for everything and everyone else.”

WikiLeaks has revealed the ways the TPP will crack down on whistle-blowing and make investigative journalism even more difficult. WikiLeaks said the TPP text also reveals a “NSA-friendly” provision regarding telecommunications.

Countries in the deal now have a window to ratify or block the TPP. Multinational corporations are eager to get the deal past lawmakers, but activists around the world are looking to seize the chance to increase pressure on governments to put an end to the TPP once and for all.

Unions, environmental activists, consumer rights groups, and other campaigners will be ramping up their organising to fight the TPP in coming months.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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