On September 26, a meeting between negotiators from all 12 nations involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will commence in Atlanta, Georgia. The meeting will run through September 30, followed by two days of meetings with trade ministers. The Atlanta meetings come on the heels of a joint meeting in San Francisco that included negotiators from the U.S., Japan, Canada, and Mexico.
The San Francisco meeting reportedly dealt with rules related to the auto industry. The upcoming Atlanta meeting is expected to be one of the final meetings as President Obama attempts to close the deal before the end of the year. Last Wednesday, President Obama spoke to a room of business leaders about the state of the TPP: “We should not assume, though, that because the [trade promotion] authority was done, that we automatically are going to be able to get TPP done,” Obama told the group.
Obama did not address critics of the trade deal who believe it will erode the sovereignty of individual nation states. Instead, he took the opportunity to criticize the Republican Party.
“Within the Republican Party, some of the same impulses that are anti-immigration reform, some of the same impulses that see the entire world as a threat, and we’ve got to wall ourselves off, some of those same impulses start creeping into the trade debate, and a party that was traditionally pro-free trade now has a substantial element that may feel differently,” Obama stated.
In late June, President Obama signed into law the so-called “fast-track” bill, setting the stage for approval of the TPP. The fast-track bill, officially known as the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), was one of two bills signed by Obama. The president also signed the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act (TAA), which is supposed to extend aid to workers who might lose their jobs as a consequence of the TPP or other so-called free trade deals.
These groups include Australian Digital Alliance, Consumer NZ (New Zealand), Copia Institute (United States), Creative Commons (International), Electronic Frontier Foundation (United States, Australia), Hiperderecho (Peru), Futuristech Info (International), Global Exchange (International), iFixit (International), New Media Rights (United States), ONG Derecho Digitales (Chile), Open Media (Canada), Public Citizen (United States), and Public Knowledge (United States).
The authors of the letter state that copyright restricts important, everyday use of creative works. The groups call on the negotiators to be open to new changes that require participating nations to develop balanced and flexible rules on copyrights. The letter also highlights four key concerns from the organizations: retroactive copyright term extension, a ban on circumvention of technology protection measures, “heavy-handed criminal penalties and civil damages,” and trade secret rules that could criminalize investigative journalism and whistleblowers reporting on corporate wrongdoing.
As the EFF writes, “Despite its earlier promises that the TPP would bring ‘greater balance’ to copyright more than any other recent trade agreement, the most recent leak of the Intellectual Property chapter belies their claims. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has still failed to live up to its word that it would enshrine meaningful public rights to use copyrighted content in this agreement.”
The TPP is not only facing resistance from electronic privacy groups, but from grassroots activists and concerned professionals around the world. On September 30, the group #StopTheTPP Atlanta is planning on hosting protests and rallies outside the building where the negotiations are being held.
Both the Anglican and Catholic churches of New Zealand have demanded the government be more transparent about the negotiations. Radio NZ reports that bishops from the churches are concerned with the lack of openness and that corporate interests are influencing the agreement while the people are being excluded. The churches also called on the New Zealand government to make the draft text of the agreement public.
In early February, doctors and health professionals representing seven countries released a letter warning that the TPP will lead to higher medical costs for all nations. The letter, published in The Lancet Medical Journal, states, “Rising medicine costs would disproportionately affect already vulnerable populations.” The doctors called on the governments involved in the trade deal to publicly release the full text of the agreement. They also demanded an independent analysis of the effects on health and human rights for each nation involved in the deal.
Also in February, an analysis by The Washington Post revealed the U.S. government’s numbers on expected job increases from TPP are not factually correct. The Fact Checker examined several quotes from government officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Both Kerry and Vilsack claimed the international trade agreement would create 650,000 new jobs. However, these numbers do not take into account income gains and changing wages. According to the government’s own sources, imports and exports would increase by the same amount — resulting in a net number of zero new jobs.
For those who have been actively resisting the TPP and spreading awareness about the dangers involved in this massive corporate agreement, the coming weeks may represent the final stages of that battle. Continue to spread awareness to anyone who will listen. The Trans-Pacific Partnership represents only one more step towards the completion of the corporate oligarchy that America has come to represent. There has never been a better time to focus on building alternatives to the Corporate-State Complex.
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