On November 13, 2013, WikiLeaks published a section of a trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty, or TPP. On the surface, the treaty is meant to facilitate trade among Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. However, there are a number of red flags surrounding the agreement.
Eight hundred million people, and one-third of all world trade, stand to be affected by the treaty—and yet only three people from each member nation have access to the entire document. Meanwhile, six hundred “corporate advisors,” representing big oil, pharmaceutical, and entertainment companies, are involved in the writing and negotiations of the treaty.
The influence of these companies is clear, as large sections of the proposal involve corporate law and intellectual property rights, rather than free trade. Corporations could gain the ability to sue governments not only for loss, but prospective loss. At the same time, patents and copyrights would see more protection. This means longer patents, leading to less access to generic drugs, and a lockdown on Internet content. Commenting on the leaked TPP chapter, which details how corporations could seek financial compensation for non-tariff barriers to trade, Arthur Stamoulis of the Citizens Trade Campaign observed, “The Tribunals that adjudicate these cases don’t have the power to literally demand that a government change its policies, but they can award payments worth millions and even billions of dollars, such that if a country doesn’t want additional cases brought against it, it gets the line.”
Furthermore, as James Trimarco wrote in YES! Magazine, observers believe the TPP “could pull the rug out from under national and local governments trying to regulate the sale and import of GMO [genetically modified organism] foods.” Tony Corbo of Food and Water Watch pointed out that because the TPP is being negotiated in secret, it is hard to say whether it would outlaw the labeling or banning of GMO foods. However, the chief US negotiator on agriculture is Islam Siddiqui, a former Monsanto lobbyist, and the US Food and Drug Administration does not currently recognize GMO foods as any different form non-GMO foods, therefore they do not see a reason that products containing GMO ingredients should be specially labeled.
Though the WikiLeaks exposure was followed quickly by an anti-TPP push in Congress, the lack of coverage in corporate US media is disconcerting. Japanese, Australian, and even Russian media discuss the TPP openly, while American news sources remained silent—even as the Obama administration attempts to fast-track it through Congress. The Washington Post was alone among the major establishment press in covering the WikiLeak’s revelations about the TPP. For example, Timothy B. Lee reported that the intellectual property section of the treaty is “a wish list for Hollywood and the pharmaceutical industry” and speculated whether the leak might “derail Obama’s trade agenda.” However, the Post relegated even this relatively superficial and US-focused perspective to its online blog. Other major papers, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal passed on this story of far-reaching global import.
Zachary Keck, “Congress May Have Just Killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Diplomat, November 18, 2013, http://thediplomat.com/2013/11/congress-may-have-killed-the-trans-pacific-partnership.
John Robles, “The TPP Is a Corporate Coup D’état—Kristinn Hrafnsson,” Voice of Russia, November 15, 2013, http://voiceofrussia.com/2013_11_15/The-TPP-is-a-corporate-coup-d-tat-Kristinn-Hrafnsson-5798.
John Robles, “Trans Pacific Partnership is Like SOPA on Steroids—Kristinn Hrafnsson,” Voice of Russia, November 23, 2013, http://voiceofrussia.com/2013_11_23/Trans-Pacific-Partnership-is-like-SOPA-on-steroids-Kristinn-Hrafnsson-1552.
“Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP),” WikiLeaks, November 13, 2013, https://wikileaks.org/tpp.
Shannon Tiezzi, “The TPP’s Not Dead Yet (But It’s Close),” Diplomat, December 7, 2013, http://thediplomat.com/2013/12/the-tpps-not-dead-yet-but-its-close.
James Trimarco, “Will a Secretive International Trade Deal Ban GMO Labeling?,” YES! Magazine, October 18 2013, http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/will-secretive-international-trade-deal-ban-gmo-labeling-trans-pacific-partnership.
Student Researchers: Dylan Scherpf (Frostburg State University) and Brandon Karns (Sonoma State University)
Faculty and Community Evaluators: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University) and Thadeus Dean Humphrey (community evaluator)