fresh voices from the front lines of change







We the People finally get to read one chapter of the 29-chapter Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) "trade" agreement. If this agreement becomes law it will fundamentally alter the relationship between our government, other governments and giant multinational corporations, so you'd think America's citizens would want to have a say in the negotiations. But the only reason We the People get to even read it at all is because it was leaked to Wikileaks.

Wikileaks Obtains TPP Chapter

Wikileaks has obtained one of the chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) "trade" agreement that is being negotiated in secret. This leaked section is the chapter about patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial design and other "intellectual property." Note that this has little or nothing to do with "trade."

This chapter is from August, and it is unknown how the chapter may have changed between then and now. The chapter indicates that the US is pushing hard to get strong "protections" for giant telecommunications companies and pharmaceutical patent-holders.

WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange said this in the announcement that Wikileaks had obtained the chapter text,

“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. 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.”

A Process Designed To Reach A Certain Conclusion

TPP is being secretly negotiated in what appears to be a directed process designed so that the outcome will represent the profit interests of giant, multinational corporations but not the interests of ... anyone else. 600 corporate representatives are involved, with access to the full text. We the People are not involved and do not have access to the text at all in full or in part. Even members of Congress are restricted in what they can see and how they can see it.

The leaked section of TPP was negotiated with the interests of companies that hold patents and copyrights and profit from doing represented so at the table, while groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, consumer groups, patient protection groups etc. were NOT at the table. So it isn't a surprise to read in the leaked chapter that there is a one-sided, pro-giant-pharmaceutical and -telecom result of this process.

Matthew Rimmer, an expert in intellectual property law told the Sydney Morning Herald, "One could see the TPP as a Christmas wish-list for major corporations, and the copyright parts of the text support such a view."

So 600 corporate representatives, lobbyists, etc. are part of the process, but:

  • Consumer groups are not at the table, so their interests are not likely to be reflected in the outcome.
  • Democracy groups are not at the table, so their interests are not likely to be reflected in the outcome.
  • Labor groups are not at the table, so their interests are not likely to be reflected in the outcome.
  • Environmental groups are not at the table, so their interests are not likely to be reflected in the outcome.
  • Patient health groups are not at the table, so their interests are not likely to be reflected in the outcome.
  • Civil rights groups are not at the table, so their interests are not likely to be reflected in the outcome.
  • Animal rights groups are not at the table, so their interests are not likely to be reflected in the outcome.
  • Groups that advocate for the interests of pretty much anything that isn't about corporate profits are not at the table, so their interests are not likely to be reflected in the outcome.

Not only are non-corporate groups not at the negotiating table, last year they were stopped from even giving presentations to the negotiators. Instead they have to get a table and hope delegates will take a brochure. Read this from April 2012:

Stakeholder registering for the Dallas round of TPP negotiators have been informed that the conference style presentation format supported at all previous rounds has been disbanded and in place stakeholders will be given options of setting up “tables” to pass out information to browsing delegates.

Before this change negotiators would at least set aside a day when groups could make presentations to all the delegates. Now they get a table and they can hope delegates will take a brochure they hand out.

Two Examples That Make The Point

Here are two examples of what results from this one-sided process.

First, you might remember that efforts to get rid of Net Neutrality and pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) failed to make it through our democratic, Constitutional process because people were able to become informed, rally opposition and make their case to stop these terrible things from happening. But this meant that the giant telecommunications corporations lost some power sand profit potential. So TPP becomes a treaty that accomplishes these same corporate goals by going around our democratic, Constitutional process.

Second, while this is not about this particular chapter of the agreement, there is an argument going on inside TPP negotiations about whether to "carve out" tobacco from the treaty. The way the treaty is currently shaping up tobacco companies will be able to sue governments that try to protect their citizens with anti-smoking efforts. So some countries are trying to "carve out" tobacco from those rules in TPP. Never mind other corporate products that harm people, tobacco gets attention because it kills so many people. But the corporations are resisting this because it sets a precedent of allowing governments to set limits on things corporations can profit from.

I think this second example should tell people all they need to know about this and similar "trade" agreements. They are really about setting certain giant corporations above government -- and other corporations -- restricting competition and innovation so these giants can stay dominant, and keep democracies and their citizens from meddling in the profit stream.

Fast Track

We the People were able to rally and defeat corporate efforts to pass SOPA and kill Net Neutrality. It was a big fight, but we managed to win. Democracy can work, and with a fight We the People can still protect ourselves from the power of the giant corporations and make our lives better.

So if citizens were able to use democracy to fight SOPA and keep Net Neutrality and other things, how can they expect to get TPP through and undo what was accomplished? Here is how: they are trying to convince Congress to pass something called "Fast Track." Fast Track limits the objections Congress can make to this treaty, forces them to vote "up or down" in a hurry so people do not have time to sufficiently focus and rally opposition, and this will of course happen in the middle of biggest corporate-funded "shock and awe" fear campaign you have ever seen. If you think there is a lot of anti-Obamacare fear-and-smear propaganda in the news today, or if you think there was a well-orchestrated "run up" to sell the Iraq war, well those are nothing compared to what they will do to sell this one.

Key point: They will try to push through "fast track" and then launch a massively-funded campaign to pass the treaty. If we can block Fast Track we might have a chance to head off this corporate takeover of the world.

You can read the leaked chapter here, as a PDF document.

Follow our TPP coverage here.

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