The Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Now Finalized, but You Can’t Read It Quite Yet

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October 5, 2015

The final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was just agreed upon at a big, multinational meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, attended by trade negotiators from the 12 Pacific Rim countries involved in the deal. The TPP, which is supported by President Barack Obama, and whose biggest players are the United States and Japan, has been in the works for about eight years. But its text has not been made available for public consumption, and still has to be put to a strictly yes-or-no vote in Congress before it can take effect.

No specific timeline for that vote exists, although according to The Washington Post, Obama legally he has to wait at least 90 days to sign the agreement now that he has notified Congress, and the text must be public for 60 of those days. That means the full text of the TPP might be shown to the public in early November.

As we’ve mentioned before, the TPP, like most international trade deals, is meant to enable free trade between member countries. With this particular agreement, Obama hopes to further the United States’ ability to set global standards for trade, rather than allow the agenda to be set by that other economic juggernaut of the Pacific, namely China.

The centerpiece of today’s announcement is the fact that the deal will knock out 18,000 tariffs, which is probably good news if you’re a consumer, and definitely good news if you’re a shipping magnate.

But a few provisions in leaked versions of the TPP have sparked outrage among the public. One such example is the concept of “investor-state dispute settlements,” which allow international companies to bring their grievances to legally-binding tribunals, which could potentially override laws in member countries. The TPP has also raised concerns about a possible overhaul of intellectual property law, as some fear an expansion of US laws restricting companies from manufacturing cheaper generic drugs will keep drug costs up worldwide.

While the newly agreed-upon draft remains shrouded in secrecy, the official summary released by the Obama administration this week does address the previous controversy about those two issues, albeit sort of vaguely.

In the case of intellectual property, the summary’s section on pharmaceuticals doesn’t exactly make it clear what will happen to drug profiteers like most-hated-man-in-America Martin Shkreli. The summary simply states that the agreement “contains pharmaceutical-related provisions that facilitate both the development of innovative, life-saving medicines and the availability of generic medicines.”

Presumably this availability of generics will be helped along by the elimination of “patent linkages,” a provision that scared Politico’s Michael Grunwald when it appeared in a previous leaked version of the TPP. Today, Grunwald tweeted that it sounds like these linkages were “stripped out” of the new version of the deal.

The US Trade Representative has also put up a page offering alternative talking points about investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS). In response to critics who claim the ISDS provision would allow international companies to undermine environmental and consumer safety laws in the US, the Trade Representative says the administration has been “upgrading” the agreement, presumably to avoid any such nightmare scenarios. The site also offers a few factoids for context: 51 trade agreements already have investor-state dispute settlements in place; “only” 13 ISDS cases have been brought against the US in the past; and so far, the US has always won.

The summary itself is light on details about ISDS, however. But there is a very specific line saying that the tribunals will need to go out the window if the dispute involves “a claim challenging a tobacco control measure of the Party.” In other words, a built-in exemption to TPP means that tobacco companies won’t be among the entities with the power to challenge laws in signatory countries.

For what it’s worth, North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis is pretty upset about this provision aimed at the tobacco industry, writing in a statement Monday that, “the Obama Administration has decided to use the TPP as a laboratory for partisan politics by discriminating against specific agricultural commodities.”

In the wake of the TPP announcement, an anti-globalization group called “Flush the TPP” has issued a call to action, scheduling a protest to run from November 14-18 in Washington, DC. The group says protesters will be urging the government to stop making deals like these, and to come up with “alternative international agreements that put people and the planet first.”

By Mike Pearl, Staff Writer for VICE
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About Mike Neuman

Identical twin; Long-time advocate of protection of our environment; Married; Father to three sons; Grandfather to one granddaughter; Born and raised in Wisconsin; Graduate of University of Wisconsin; post graduate degrees in agricultural economics and Water Resources Management fro UWMadison; Former School Crossing Guard for City of Madison; Bike to Work for 31 years with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Retired from DNR in 2007; Biked to school crossing guard site 2 X daily for 7 years retiring in 2019; in addition to being an advocate of safeguarding our environment, I am also an advocate for humane treatment of animal, children, and people in need of financial resource for humane living. I am presently a Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Madison, Wisconsin. I oppose all long (>500 miles) distance travel (via fossil fuel burning) for nonessential purposes and all ownership of more than one home. I am opposed to militarism in any form particularly for the purpose of monetary gain. I am a Strong believer in people everywhere having the right to speak their minds openly, without any fear of reprisal, regarding any concerns; especially against those in authority who are not acting for the public good?in a timely fashion and in all countries of the world not just the U S.. My identical twin, Pat, died in June 2009. He was fired from his job with the National Weather Service despite having a long and successful career as a flood forecaster with the Kansas City National Weather Service. He took a new position in the Midwest Regional Office in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Pat’s work for the NWS went sour after he began to see the evidence for concern about rising global temperatures shortly after relocating to Minneapolis, and how they appeared to effect of flooding on the Red River that flows out of Canada before entering the U.S. in North Dakota. . Pat and I conversed on a regular basis with other scientists on the Yahoo Group named “Climate Concern “ and by personal email. The NWS denied his recommendation to give his public presentation o n his research at the “Minneapolis Mall of America” in February 2000, which deeply affected h,im. I will h He strongly believed the information ought be shared with the public to which I concurred. That was the beginning of the vendetta against my brother, Patrick J. Neuman, for speaking strongly of the obligations the federal government was responsible for accurately informing the citizenry. A way great similar response to my raising the issue of too many greenhouse gases being emitted by drivers of vehicles on Wisconsin highway system, my immediate supervisors directed: “that neither global warming, climate change nor the long term impacts upon the natural resources of Wisconsin from expansion of the state highway system were to be any part of my job requirements, and that I must not communicate, nor in a memorandum to all the bureau, shall any person who works in the same bureau I do communicate with me, neither verbally on the phone, by email.

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