Pamela Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona
Yesterday the text of the multi-national “free trade” agreement– the long-awaited Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — was released to the public. This start the 90-day review period before President Barack Obama can seek approval from Congress. (Note that the review period overlaps the holiday season and the presidential primaries– plenty of distraction for the American voters.)
Ant-TPP activists and humanitarians wasted no time pushing out their stories and opinions; analyses are being posted on blogs, videos, and social media, particularly Twitter (#FlushTheTPP, #TPPWorseThanWeThought). Labeling the TPP a “corporate power grab nightmare,” Common Dreams posted a comprehensive write-up detailing low points such as climate denial, food safety, and net neutrality. Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman interviewed Public Citizen/Global Trade Watch’s Lori Wallach and Doctors Without Borders Michael Forman. Focusing on big pharma’s power grab, Doctors Without Borders came out quickly and strongly calling the TPP “the worst trade agreement for access to medicines in developing countries”. The TPP extends drug patents and increases big pharma’s ability to set high prices. High prices will limit availability and limit access to care, particularly in poor countries. This will result in increased premature death among those who live in poverty. [So, why are we doing this? Oh, yeah, it’s “business friendly.” Too bad about the whole premature death thing.]
From Common Dreams…
As expert analysis of the long-shrouded, newly publicized TransPacific Partnership (TPP) final text continued to roll out on Thursday, consensus formed around one fundamental assessment of the 12-nation pact: It’s worse than we thought.
“From leaks, we knew quite a bit about the agreement, but in chapter after chapter the final text is worse than we expected with the demands of the 500 official U.S. trade advisers representing corporate interests satisfied to the detriment of the public interest,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
In fact, Public Citizen charged, the TPP rolls back past public interest reforms to the U.S. trade model while expanding problematic provisions demanded by the hundreds of official U.S. corporate trade advisers who had a hand in the negotiations while citizens were left in the dark.
On issues ranging from climate change to food safety, from open Internet to access to medicines, the TPP “is a disaster,” declared Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now.
“Now that we’ve seen the full text, it turns out the job-killing TPP is worse than anything we could’ve imagined,” added Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America. “This agreement would push down wages, flood our nation with unsafe imported food, raise the price of life-saving medicine, all the while trading with countries where gays and single mothers can be stoned to death.”
From Democracy Now…
LORI WALLACH: … There are a couple of places where I was shocked to see that actually the TPPactually rolls back what was extremely modest progress, that congressional Democrats had forced on President Bush for his last set of agreements—three specific things.
One, in the area of access to affordable medicines, the TPP’s rules on patents, actually both for developing countries but also for us, would roll back that initial reform and make medicine more expensive in pretty dramatic ways.
Number two, the investor-state dispute resolution system is actually expanded out, in ways we should discuss, so that more kinds of laws can be attacked, and many more companies will be able to attack U.S. laws.
And then the third thing that was kind of a shocker is there is an expansion of the kind of attacks you can have on food safety, on imported food safety, which is really serious, because Malaysia and Vietnam, two of the TPP countries, are amongst the major importers of seafood and shrimp—a lot of their stuff gets stopped now for being unsafe—but this agreement would give them new rights to basically attack our stopping their stuff for food safety purposes and flood us with unsafe imports…
Well, I think it’s very telling that yesterday the agribusiness industry was the only major industry that was extremely enthusiastic when the text came out. And they said, “Wow, we got these great ways to stop these food safety attacks on our imports!” Well, they’re thinking of trying to jam our GMO foods into other countries. But what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, which means the same rules could mean that imports, particularly of—I don’t know how to put this, because people are probably having breakfast, but in Vietnam particularly, there’s a huge issue of farmed shrimp being farmed in pools that, among other things, are fertilized with human poop—can’t put it another way—and then lots of antibiotics are poured into the ponds before the harvest to deal with the diseases that come from the human waste. So we’ve got some really unsafe products. Right now we only inspect a small percentage. But we over-inspect for countries like Vietnam because we know there are big problems. One of the new rules I was surprised to see is you can challenge the inspection, both the way you sample, how you decide to pick out a particular country because they have problems, but also you have limits on how you can do testing, how long you can hold the product. I mean, practically, what does it mean? The TPP could mean poisonous food, that you can’t label from what country it comes from, on your kids’ plates. It could mean major public health issues.
From Doctors Without Borders (AKA Medicins Sans Frontieres [MSF])…
MSF statement by Judit Rius Sanjuan, U.S. manager and legal policy advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign:
“MSF remains gravely concerned about the effects that the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal will have on access to affordable medicines for millions of people, if it is enacted. Today’s official release of the agreed TPP text confirms that the deal will further delay price-lowering generic competition by extending and strengthening monopoly market protections for pharmaceutical companies.
The TPP is a bad deal for medicine: it’s bad for humanitarian medical treatment providers such as MSF, and it’s bad for people who need access to affordable medicines around the world, including in the United States.
At a time when the high price of life-saving medicines and vaccines is increasingly recognized as a barrier to effective medical care, it is very concerning to see that the U.S. government and pharmaceutical companies have succeeded in locking in rules that will keep medicine prices high for longer and limit the tools that governments and civil society have to try to increase generic competition.
For example, if enacted, the TPP will not allow national regulatory authorities to use existing data that demonstrates a biological product’s safety and efficacy to authorize the sale of competitor products, even in the absence of patents. The TPP would also force governments to extend existing patent monopolies beyond current 20-year terms at the request of pharmaceutical companies, and to redefine what type of medicine deserves a patent, including mandating the granting of new patents for modifications of existing medicines.
The provisions in the TPP text will not only raise the price of medicines and cause unnecessary suffering, but they also represent a complete departure from the U.S. government’s previous commitments to global health, including safeguards included in the U.S.’s 2007 ‘New Trade Policy.’
It is not too late to prevent further restrictions on access to affordable medicines in the TPP. As the text now goes to national legislatures for final approval, we urge all TPP governments to carefully consider whether the agreed TPP text reflects the direction they want to take on access to affordable medicines and promotion of biomedical innovation; if it does not, the TPP should be modified or rejected.”
What can we do? The TPP only becomes a reality if Congress approves it. We must keep the pressure on our Congressional representatives. Fast track passed by only five votes; we need to flip some of those “yes” on TPP to “no”. For the TPP to pass Congress, Republicans will have to stand with the President they love to hate because Democrats and progressives, for the most part, stand against the TPP and with the people.
We are not alone. We people worldwide are fighting against the TPP (and the 600 corporate authors) and for the health, freedom, and welfare of Earth’s human people. Follow Global Trade Watch to keep up with developments.