The Trans-Pacific Partnership or the “TPP” negotiations being held in Singapore the past week have fallen over against the back drop of a Wikileaks release of documents that show that the United States is applying significant pressure on nations to adopt its terms and conditions.
Countries with a combined GDP of US $28,136 billion and representing nearly 40% of the worlds GDP have been at the table trying to sort through a raft of measures that can only be described as highly controversial. Countries involved are Australia, New Zealand, United States, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan. According to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade the TPP,
“is a viable pathway for realising the vision of a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific. This agreement will build on the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (P4) between Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, which entered into force in 2006”
But much of the negotiations have been fraught with secrecy which has stirred the emotions of many groups opposed to many of the measures. The major points of controversy have been ones that have the potential to reduce the sovereignty of signatory nations by forcing the change of many national laws. The ability to patent surgical procedures and medicines, reductions in agricultural export subsidies in significant favour of the United States and enforced ISP liability that would effectively re write existing copyright laws across the pacific are just some of the highly controversial aspects of this agreement.
Many groups in recent times have attacked the mainstream media due to the lack of coverage of these issues. This seems to have now ended with the entrance of the Wikileaks documents released in previous days with most major outlets reporting on what has now turned out to be an epic fail to push through the trade agreement.
The internal memos released by Wikileaks (which do not disclose the country of origin) state among other things,
“…As an overview, it should be mentioned that the U.S. is exerting great pressure to close as many issues as possible this week. However the Chapters that were reviewed by the CNs (Chief Negotiators) today did not record much progress. This pressure will increase with every passing day…”
Negativity surrounding the agreement has also come from academic quarters with Nobel Prize winning and very Keynesian economist Joseph Stiglitz writing an open letter to TPP negotiators warning them to resist many measures as
“the agreement presents grave risks on all sorts of topics”
His analysis states that the agreement would,
- weaken the 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health
- mandate extensions of patents terms
- mandate lower standards for granting patents on medicines
- mandate granting patents on surgical procedures,
- mandate monopolies of 12 years on test data for biologic drugs
- narrow the grounds for granting compulsory license on patents,
- increase damages for infringements of patents and copyrights,
- reduce space for exceptions as regards limits on injunctions, and
- narrow copyright exceptions
- requiring life+ 70 years of copyright protection,
- mandate excessive enforcement measures for digital information,
- and otherwise restrict access to knowledge.
In light of the failure to pass agreement, the nations negotiating on the TPP stated,
“we have decided to continue our intensive work in the coming weeks toward such an agreement,”