The controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement might not be voted on until after the 2016 presidential elections, or possibly into the next presidential term, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
In an interview with the Washington Post, McConnell said he does not support the idea of voting on the TPP before the election. “It certainly shouldn’t come before the election. I don’t think so, and I have some serious problems with what I think it is,” he said. “But I think the president would be making a big mistake to try to have that voted on during the election. There’s significant pushback all over the place.”
“We will continue working with Congressional leaders to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership as soon as possible next year,” Brandi Hoffine, a White House spokeswoman, told the Post on Thursday. On Friday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, “Our view is that it is possible for Congress to carefully consider the details of this agreement and to review all the benefits associated with this agreement … without kicking the vote all the way to the lame-duck period.”
The TPP has faced criticism for several years for being negotiated in secret with overwhelming influence from multinational corporations. In late June, President Obama signed into law the so-called “fast-track” bill that set the stage for approval of the TPP. ‘Fast track’ limits Congress’ ability to alter the provisions of the trade deal and only allows a vote of yes or no. The final terms of the deal were agreed upon in October, and the full text of the agreement was released in November. The earliest Obama could sign the deal would be February 4, 2016.
Following the release of the text of the TPP, journalist James Corbett released an excellent report examining the effects of the proposal. Corbett concludes the most egregious portions relate to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Mechanism, intellectual property, and food safety standards. I highly recommend his report to understand these issues in depth.
What I will say is that ISDS will give corporations loopholes to escape accountability and empower international bodies, overriding national sovereignty of the signing nations. Under ISDS, foreign corporations would be allowed to appeal legal decisions to international tribunals, rather than face domestic courts. Critics fear this could lead to a loss of sovereignty and the enrichment of transnational corporations.
Recently, the Electronic Frontier Foundation also released a report on the dangers of the TPP. The EFF writes:
Everything in the TPP that increases corporate rights and interests is binding, whereas every provision that is meant to protect the public interest is non-binding and is susceptible to get bulldozed by efforts to protect corporations.
The EFF’s report offers “a list of communities who were excluded from the TPP deliberation process,” and examples of “the main ways that the TPP’s copyright and digital policy provisions will negatively impact them.” These audiences include Innovators and Business Owners; Libraries, Archives, and Museums; Students; Impacts on Online Privacy and Digital Security; Website Owners; Gamers; Artists; Journalists and Whistleblowers; Tinkerers and Repairers; Free Software; and Cosplayers and Fans of Anime, Cartoons, or Movies.
Before the deal was signed, fifteen different organizations issued an open letter asking TPP negotiators to provide public safeguards for copyrighted works. 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. Also highlighted in the letter, are 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. 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.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) expresses its dismay that TPP countries have agreed to United States government and multinational drug company demands that will raise the price of medicines for millions by unnecessarily extending monopolies and further delaying price-lowering generic competition. The big losers in the TPP are patients and treatment providers in developing countries. Although the text has improved over the initial demands, the TPP will still go down in history as the worst trade agreement for access to medicines in developing countries, which will be forced to change their laws to incorporate abusive intellectual property protections for pharmaceutical companies.
In early February, doctors and health professionals representing seven countries released a letter warning 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.” Those 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 the TPP are not factually correct. The Post’s 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.
What good reason do the people have for trusting their governments when they say this trade deal is going to benefit the masses? The truth is the people have no reason to believe the words that come from forked tongues. Rather than looking to international bodies, national councils, presidents, and parliaments, the people should begin to look for the solutions within our own hearts, minds, and communities.
This article (TPP May Be Delayed Until After 2016 Elections) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Derrick Broze and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email [email protected].