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article imageOp-Ed: Pacific Free Trade Deal (TPP) terms kept from public perusal

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By Ken Hanly     Aug 27, 2012 in Business
Washington - Free trade agreements are almost automatically regarded as beneficial by global capital whether in the U.S. or elsewhere. The Pacific Free Trade deal (TPP) is no exception even though the terms have not been made public.
People who oppose more free trade are often regarded as neanderthals and reactionary protectionists by many "respectable" analysts. Yet many free trade agreements are actually quite reactionary and not in the interests of most of the citizens in the countries that are part of the agreement. This is perhaps one of the reasons that the exact terms of the new Pacific Free Trade deal (TPP) are not made public. The TPP originally started with Brunei, Chile, Singapore, and New Zealand but now it has expanded to include the U.S., Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, and Canada. South Korea may also join and the Philippines too is interested.
Dean Baker has a critical article on these free trade negotiations in the Guardian. Baker is an American economist and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He has a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. Free trade agreements always contain provisions that protect patents and copyright(TRIPS).
As Baker points out in the article, patent protection in the U.S. increases what patients pay for drugs by about 270 billion a year or 1.8% of GDP. Multinational corporations are anxious to spread protection of these monopoly rights to other countries and free trade deals do this. Baker says of the TPP deal:
The draft TPP deal may grant new patent privileges and restrict net freedom, but it's secret – unless you're a multinational CEO.
Only negotiators and a select group of corporate partners are privy to the draft document. As Baker puts it:
The top executives at General Electric, Goldman Sachs, and Pfizer probably all have drafts of the relevant sections of the TPP. However, the members of the relevant congressional committees have not yet been told what is being negotiated.
Because of the secrecy involved, the exact terms of the agreement are unknown but he suspects that some aspects of the agreement will override domestic laws and that if governments tried to pass the provisions through normal legislative processes they would fail. Baker expects that governments will line up corporate interests to support the legislation and ram it through legislatures. Once the new regulations are imposed on this substantial group of countries, other countries may be forced to fall into line.
Some leaked materials give us an idea what the act has in store for participating countries. There will be stronger protection for intellectual property. For movies and recorded music, there may be provisions similar to those of the Stop Online Privacy Act (Sopa). As Baker puts it, these rules would turn Internet companies such as Google and Facebook into copyright cops. These measures are very unpopular so they may be passed as part of a free trade act that will be claimed to be very beneficial as a whole. The pharmaceutical industry would like nothing better than to strengthen patent regulations. Baker argues that costs of copyright and patent protection are much less than the costs of tariffs or quotas that free traders are so anxious to remove.
Baker worries also that the rules negotiated could override domestic laws on the environment and workplace safety. Of course, given that the public is not provided with any details of what is happening, Baker cannot say in what particular instances they would do this. An important trade deal such as this, claims Baker, should be discussed as part of the U.S. election campaign. However it isn't because the public is not given any information and that is probably how global corporations want it to be.
There is a website, Stop the Trap, that has a petition and details some of the effects on Internet users that the leaked proposed rules might have:
Criminalize some of your everyday use of the Internet,
Force service providers to collect and hand over your private data without privacy safeguards and
Give media conglomerates more power to fine you for Internet use, remove online content—including entire websites—and even terminate your access to the Internet.
Create a parallel legal system of international tribunals that will undermine national sovereignty and allow conglomerates to sue countries for laws that infringe on their profits.
This free trade deal is another step toward removing any democratic control of global capital. Our democratic governments, for some reason, will not tell us what is happening or any details of the deal. I wonder why?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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