Sometimes a story comes up which leaves you wondering where the hell to begin, and that’s exactly the kind of story we love to cover here on Politicoid. Having received much love from Australia of late, I’ve decided that now is the time to tackle one such monster: The imminent disaster that is… the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). I can already hear my non-pacific readership beginning to snore – but don’t. This monumental crock of effluvia affects you too, more than you can know (literally), not just because of the ramifications of the TPP but also due to the upcoming (drumroll) Trans-atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). More on that later…
This is one of those issues that touches on everything that is important to stand up and be counted for in ‘developed’ democracies today: economics, government corruption, the buyout of democracy, corporate power, income inequality, the 99%… and the list goes on. Under the somewhat ironic guise of a Free Trade treaty, multinational corporations are seeking to consolidate their monopolies and, as the Guarian’s George Monbiot has said, instigate a “full-frontal assault on democracy”. If you haven’t heard of it yet, let me give you a brief rundown of what the TPP is:
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is currently an agreement between a small number of pacific nations, designed to encourage trade. Well, hey that’s great, isn’t it? Everybody’s having fun. OK, maybe not, but stay with me: It is now being broadened and re-negotiated to include other nations – namely the US, Australia and Japan – ostensibly to strengthen ‘free trade’. Beyond that, what do we know? Well, officially, nothing. Why? Because the negotiations are going on in secret – and I mean really secret.
To give you an idea of exactly how secret, in the US it took years for Congress to be allowed even to view – let alone be involved in negotiating – the draft text of the agreement. Not only that, but when they finally were allowed to view it, they were permitted only limited time, under supervision, and were not allowed to take any copies. That’s the United States’ Congress – the people’s representatives – completely excluded from the development of the treaty and expected to vote it up or down based on almost no information. Remember, these deals are being negotiated in your name. If you need any more vivid picture of the corporate takeover of our democracies, just imagine, if you will, corporate security and lawyers guarding the TPP draft as our representatives beg for more time only to be told to shove it.
I could write an entire article as to why the parties to the treaty have implemented this deal in secret (hint: it’s because they can’t get it through any other way – they’ve tried). Sadly though, transparency issues are, as it turns out, the least of our problems. Thanks, once again, to the stellar work of Wikileaks, we have finally been able to trawl the depths of the corporate wet dream that is the TPP. I want to get to the real meat of this, so in the meantime here’s a quick warm up. If you need more in depth, follow the links or watch the fascinating and scary interview from Truthloader with Glyn Moody at the end of the article. So, let’s go, shall we?
Strengthening of patents to make it harder to, for example, make cheap generic drugs. That’s right, the bastards want poor people to die so they can turn a buck.
It will become easier to acquire a patent, so you could patent not only your product, but every aspect of that product.
Extension of patents to cover things like patenting animals (*sigh*) and surgical methods, which could result in surgeons being unable to perform operations for fear of breaching Intellectual Property law.
Extension of copyright term limits from 70 years post-death of the author (originally, it was 14 years) to over 100 years.
Strengthening Digital Rights Management (DRM) to make copying – not necessarily pirating – harder. Unless, of course, you happen to be the government. Who coulda guessed?
Inclusion of any digital copy under copyright laws; this pretty much means that any data moving through your computer or phone – for example, YouTube videos – could be subject to an infringement enforcement.
Massive increases in civil and criminal damages for copyright breaches, with the concurrent extension of the term ‘commercial’ to include activities that don’t make money (er, what the- actual-fuck?). If you haven’t worked it out yet, that means that you could be fined or jailed for your personal mp3 collection.
There is much, much more, but I’m trying hard enough not to smash shit up just thinking about it. This clusterfuck of wrongness has been gleaned from one single chapter of the leaked TPP draft. It has 29 in total. But despite the clear contempt that the MegaCorps hold the consumer in (cross them, go to jail; if you’re poor, then just fucking die), these clauses are but the stink emanating from the true cackpile – cunningly disguised as investor-state dispute settlement. Contrary to the yawnsome title, investor-state dispute settlement (henceforth ISDS) is in fact by far the most egregious contravention of our rights.
What it means, in essence, is that corporations can sue sovereign governments if they feel that government regulations will impede their profit-making abilities. They will do this in privately run, supranational courts. It may not be new (such agreements already exist in other treaties, such as NAFTA), but the TPP extends ISDS to a much larger sphere and for fellow Atlantic coast-dwellers, the aforementioned TTIP intends to implement it across the rest of the western-aligned world. One should immediately start to get an idea how utterly disastrous this could be: For one, it places corporate adjudication above and outwith the level of national or international courts, a fact which challenges the very concept of national sovereignty. And by the way, who do you think pays the damages? Thats right…
As I mentioned earlier, this is already happening. In Australia, after the decision to market cigarettes in plain packaging (but for the hideous health warnings), tobacco giant Philip Morris sued the Australian government for lost profits. In Canada, Lone Pine of the US sued the government for $250m in lost profits over it’s fracking moratorium, under the auspices of NAFTA. Similar examples of corporate free trade madness can be found in El Salvador, Argentina (a particularly shocking example) and others. To understand how these ‘people’, as corporations are legally defined (!), could possibly justify this batshit behaviour just remember; corporations are amoral entities. They give not-a-fuck for anything other than providing their shareholders with ever-larger dividends and if that means engaging in morally reprehensible, destructive and conceited behaviour, then fine. To get an idea of how any government can be prepared to sign a treaty which robs them of their own power and our sovereignty, then I suggest you google ‘corporate lobbying’ and educate yourself – your democracy is being stolen from right under your nose. In the United States, the corporate buyout of democracy is all but complete, and here in Britain the posh nobs in charge are showing similar contempt for representative democracy.
In conclusion then, now that we know for sure what is in parts of the draft agreement, it can be accurately stated that within a couple of treaties time we can expect the practical destruction of the free market (I mean the actual free market concept, not the horribly disfigured parody that we see), the relegation of democracy to a rubber stamp, the end of environmental and health regulations as well as other consumer protections and the criminalisation of anyone who doesn’t play by the rules of the corporate oligarchy. Do you seriously need more reason to get up and scream “WHAT THE-LIVING-FUUUUCK!!!”?
What can you do? In the short term, there are literally hundreds of campaigns in opposition to the TPP – Avaaz, Electronic Freedom Foundation and exposethetpp.org are but three. Public dissent to previous attempts to legalise a corporatocracy (SOPA, PIPA, ACTA) is the very reason that they have been forced to take the ultra-secret route, so it can be done. In the longer term, support efforts to take money out of politics and curb the influence of lobbyists. But remember, these guys don’t ever give up, and the price of freedom is, as they say, eternal vigilance.