UNI Global Union reaction to the TPPA secret deal: time to mobilize public opinion and influence legislators
For immediate release: 6 October 2015.
It has been revealed that 12 countries have signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP or TPPA) after five years of negotiations and five final days of marathon talks in Atlanta (USA). It has been held up by differences over the length of intellectual property rights on biotech drugs, with the US wanting longer monopolies on drug patents. This would limit patients’ access to cheaper generic drugs and increase the financial burden on health services. Concessions have been made allowing Australia to keep its existing five-year protection period whilst allowing for flexibility on longer monopolies.
TPP will set the foundation for trade in medicines and biotechnology, as well as e-commerce, property rights and much more.
Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange has said of the deal: ““If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”
The deal is between 12 countries including the US, Japan, Australia and Mexico and would cover 40% of the world’s economy.
Yet most of the text remains secret with only a handful of negotiators and corporate lobbies having access to it.
For Philip Jennings, the General Secretary of UNI Global Union, “the new TPP agreement has potential far-reach consequences for workers and consumers in the next twenty years. Negotiations have all been held behind closed doors. The public has no access to what is discussed. Even politicians have extremely limited access to the negotiation documents. We cannot let that happen: this is a real threat to democracy. Multinationals are doing everything they can to restrict the space for government-led regulation. Unions will have to fight to change this agreement. The text should now go to Parliaments before ratification and that will be the place to change or stop the deal and time for unions and civil society to inform the public about is at stake.”
In the US only members of congress with special security clearance can access the documents in a special reading room. They cannot make copies or even take their own handwritten notes out of the room and are forbidden from telling anyone else what they have seen.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “Powerful corporations were given an inside track in the secretive negotiations of the TPP and their influence is clear in the outcome. Yet again, governments have put the interests of finance and big business ahead of ordinary people, with more financial deregulation, longer patents on medicines at the expense of the public, and restrictions on digital freedoms. Corporations will be able to sue governments under the infamous ISDS dispute procedures; there are no direct remedies for workers.”
The controversial Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) are at the heart of TPP. These are secret tribunals in which private courts can sue governments for loss of profits caused by changes in legislation. This could happen even if the law concerned was passed to protect the environment or public health.
ISDS already operates in free trade agreements around the world and has led to several controversial cases. These include tobacco giant, Philip Morris, which is suing the Australian government for millions of dollars over the introduction of plain cigarette packaging; the Canadian-based firm, Lone Pine, sued the Canadian government over its moratorium on fracking. And Swedish energy company, Vatenfall, took the German government to court for deciding to phase out nuclear power over public health concerns.
For the UNI affiliate FIRST Union, the government has betrayed the interests of working New Zealanders by signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA),
“The TPPA is a threat to our sovereignty.” says FIRST Union General Secretary Robert Reid.“Under the deal our ability to legislate in the public interest is compromised. Companies who believe their profits or market privileges are threatened can sue our government in secretive overseas tribunals,” says Reid.
Last but not least, the TPP agreement could lead to significant job losses.
Anti-TPP campaigners in the US have pointed out that by making it easier to shift jobs abroad, the agreement could lead to huge job losses at home. They point to the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which promised to create new jobs for US workers actually led to millions of job-losses as work migrated to cheaper areas. Such trade deals are thought to push down wages and endanger workers' rights as increased competition puts pressure on the labour market.
The TPPA has far-reaching implications for other parts of the world as well. The EU is already saying that Europe should not be left behind and speed up the on-going talks on TTIP. In other words, the signing of TPP will most certainly put the TTIP negotiations into fast track mode.
Learn more about trade and the three “Ts” (TTP, TTIP, TiSA): watch the Wiki Leaks video