(CNS): The recently concluded Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) will expand corporate profits at the expense of people's rights. A new addition to the growing number of free trade agreements (FTAs) took centre stage last Monday as the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries announced the conclusion of a mammoth trade deal that covers more than 40% of the global economy.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) has engendered strong opposition from countries involved in the negotiations, as well as from people's organisations around the world. Today, it is rightly condemned as a US-conceived treaty that is part of its pivot to Asia in an attempt to maintain its economic clout and counter the rising Sino-centrism in the region.
Why so secret?
Like all other FTAs, the TPP is negotiated behind closed doors--only corporate advisors and lobbyists are given exclusive access to the text. In 2010, TPP member states agreed not to release the negotiating text until four years after an actual agreement has been made and/or abandoned. Which elicits the obvious question--Why keep it a secret? What is in the text that compels negotiating governments to hide it away from public scrutiny?
Here's a hint: The only way to complete the deal is too keep it hidden from the very people who would have to live with its consequences.
ISDS and expanding corporate rights
Often dubbed as 'NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement - NAFTA - is a trade agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States creating a trilateral rules-based trade bloc in North America) on steroids,' the TPP includes a scandalous clause on investment that would give enormous powers to corporations. Albeit negotiated in secret, leaked sections of the agreement indicate the TPPA's full endorsement of the notorious NAFTA corporate tribunals, otherwise known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).
The ISDS is a dispute settlement modality that allows corporations and foreign investors to sue governments over actions perceived as detrimental to expected future profits. In other words, the TPP would grant corporations the right to file legal complaints against governments for policies inimical to profit-making, such as raising the minimum wage or increasing the quality of basic social services, as both actions would cost corporations more capital outlay and therefore less profit.