Imagine you need emergency heart surgery and you’re told that you can’t have the procedure because it’s been patented by a Japanese company. Or imagine armed federal agents bursting through the door of your company and ordering them to shut down operations until they comply with environmental regulations set by Peru.
These nightmare scenarios and more are the possible result of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; a massive multi-nation crony capitalist agreement that the Obama administration has been working on in secret for over a year. The pact has been called NAFTA on steroids because the all encompassing treaty covers twelve Pacific nations including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Chile, Japan and Australia.
Nobody knows exactly what’s in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and even Congress has been mostly kept in the dark. Final meetings on the proposal are currently taking place in Salt Lake City.
After the top-down disaster of the ‘see what’s in it after you pass it’ Affordable Care Act, there’s ample reason to worry about an overarching trade agreement that the Obama administration wants to ‘fast track’ without any Congressional checks and balances. Equally alarming: of the agreement’s 29 chapters, 24 of them have little or nothing to do with trade.
Like Obamacare, the problem is that the administration is keen to pass a massive, life altering set of regulations that almost nobody has read yet.
Enter Wikileaks, who released the ‘intellectual property’ chapter recently. As they explain on their website:
The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states.
The TPP is the forerunner to the equally secret US-EU pact TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), for which President Obama initiated US-EU negotiations in January 2013. Together, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60 per cent of global GDP.
For example, in the leaked section on intellectual property and patents, United States negotiators are proposing patenting surgical procedures; something against current U.S. law. Another proposal creates secret transnational tribunals to allow corporations to sue governments over regulations they say is hurting their profits.
The treaty would supersede U.S. law, which would then have to be rewritten to match the treaty.
The practical effect of similar ideas made news in 2011 when the Gibson guitar company was raided for violations of the Lacey Act, which calls for U.S. enforcement of the export laws of other countries. Some have calledthe military-style raid an abuse of power that was made possible by the Lacey Act.
The Obama administration’s desire to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership through without Congressional approval is meeting with resistance from both the right and the left in Congress. Both sides are especially concerned about the Fast Track. The Guardian quotes Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch:
Fast track authorized executive-branch officials to set US policy on non-tariff, and indeed not-trade, issues in the context of ‘trade’ negotiations.
Twenty-one Republican Congressmen sent a letter to President Obama earlier this month in opposition to the fast tracking based on Constitutional concerns, signed by representatives including Tea Party stalwarts Michele Bachman, Louie Gohmert and Steve Stockman.
Over 150 Democrats sent their own version of the letter. Of course, the left has their own reasons for opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership…for now, at least. They want to use it as “a tool for creating and retaining family-wage jobs in America, safeguarding the environment, maintaining consumer protection.”
It’s worth noting that with Obamacare, Big Labor saw some of the problems early on, such as the damaging effect it would have on high value insurance plans referred to as ‘Cadillac plans.’ The unions didn’t end up opposing Obamacare, of course; they just cut themselves a better deal than the rest of the American public. One can safely assume that dynamic would be in play here.
Because it would lead to another increase in government power, not everyone on the left opposes it. The official government website of the Office of the United States Trade Representative has an article entitledEnvironmental Groups Support Efforts to Achieve Strong Outcomes for the Environment in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations that says “the United States is also advancing new proposals to tackle illegal wildlife and timber trade.”
Ask the terrorized workers at the Gibson guitar factory how well that works out in practice.