ILPS statement on the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
22 January 2016
After half a decade of negotiations, parties to the US-conceived Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are set to sign the egregious trade deal on February 4 this year. The TPP is an international ‘free trade’ agreement (FTA) that onesidedly and excessively favors the imperialist countries and their monopoly firms at the expense of the people, especially in the underdeveloped and dependent countries countries. The people’s rights are prejudiced by the TPP imposing stricter rules on intellectual property rights, new standards on state-owned enterprises, government procurement, and provisions on investment protection.
The TPP encompasses 12 countries representing 40% of the global GDP or 25.5% of the world’s total trade volume. It is touted as the largest trade agreement in history binding the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries (New Zealand, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam) into a 21st century trade pact.
The secretly negotiated 6,000-page treaty released by WikiLeaks last October 2015 reveals treacherous terms and standards designed to further strengthen monopoly capitalist control over the global economy and the world’s resources. Beyond being just a trade deal, the TPP also plays a key role in advancing the geopolitical interests of US imperialism to maintain its hold in the Asia Pacific and contain the rising power of China in the region and beyond.
Indeed, in his final State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama urged Congress to approve the mega-trade deal because, “with TPP, China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do.” As part of the US pivot to Asia, the TPP serves as the economic counterpart to the heightened military force projection by the US throughout Asia Pacific.
The TPP was born out of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) side meetings back in 2005 with Chile, Singapore, Brunei and New Zealand as its original members. In 2008 however, the US took hold of the negotiations and worked towards expanding the TPP membership to its current roster of member countries.
In 2014, the APEC Business Advisory Council proposed the concept of a Free Trade Area of Asia Pacific (FTAAP) – a mega-regional trade deal that aims to implement World Trade Organization (WTO) standards as well as solve the complex and often overlapping trade rules caused by multiple FTAs and bilateral agreements between and among countries.
However, the FTAAPfailed to gain traction due to major disagreements between China and the US on certain rules and provisions. In order to move forward, the APEC 2010 summit released an official communiquéannouncing to pursue the FTAAP by building on existing regional trade negotiations such as the TPP and its competitor, the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The opportunity to set regional standards on trade and investment, the chance to control almost half of global trade and the massive profits that can be tapped from a mega-region that shares more than half of the global GDP provided rabid motivation for the US and its allies to pursue the TPP. In one of her speeches during an APEC forum in Washington in 2011, Hilary Clinton suggested that the TPP membership must “…grow to include all APEC economies and that the TPPA will provide a foundation for an eventual FTAAP.”
During last year’s APEC summit in Manila, an official statement by the Chilean government announced the signing of the controversial trade deal on February 4 together with New Zealand’s proposal to host the said meeting. Some weeks after negotiating countries reached an agreement on the TPP, several countries in the region immediately announced their intent to join the trade negotiations. South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand have all previously expressed their desire to be part of the TPP.
Following a previous announcement that the country will not join the TPP, Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III also made a turnaround when he declared weeks ahead of the APEC summit in Manila that the country is once again keen to join the trade deal. After being initially silent about the TPP, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia also announced intent to join the TPP adding to the growing list of would-be TPP members.
Like many FTAs, the TPP was negotiated behind closed doors – only corporate advisors and lobbyists were given exclusive access to the text. In fact, TPP member states agreed in 2010 to prohibit any form of public release of the negotiating text until four years after an actual agreement has been made and/or abandoned. The secretive nature of the TPP and other trade deals in the offing attest to its anti-people character – as governments learned that the only way to complete such a deal is to avoid resistance by keeping it hidden from the very people who would have to live with its damaging consequences.
The TPP includes an insidious clause on investment disputes that allow corporations and big businesses to sue entire countries through a corporate tribunal known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). The ISDS allows corporations and foreign investors to file legal complaints against entire governments over actions perceived as inimical to profit-making and detrimental to future profits such as raising the minimum wage or increasing the quality of basic social services.
Under TPP conditions, signatory countries would also be obliged to reshape their domestic policies, laws and regulations in accordance with the agreement effectively dismantling any constitutional protection afforded by national laws in order to give way to greater corporate control.
Under the guise of ‘regulatory cooperation,’ enormous pressure is coming from big US corporations that want to ‘level the playing field’ between the private corporations and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) citing the unfair advantage and state subsidy given to the latter.
One of the most dangerous and controversial elements of the TPP is the section on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) that contain far-reaching implications across sectors and communities. For peasants and small food producers, this would entail restrictions in the use of seeds that have patented materials.
IPR rules also extend medicine patent rights for up to 25 years thereby enabling big pharmaceutical companies to monopolize the drug market and keep charging high prices without the competition of generic brands. Lastly, the TPP provision on data privacy severely limits internet freedom by compelling internet service providers to spy on user activity, and cut user access to common-generated content such as Youtube among others.
Mega-regional trade deals such as the TPP serve the current thrusts of imperialist globalization, namely: dismantle remaining labour protections and other measures for the protection of social welfare and the environment; privatize and commercialize sectors of the economy still under public or common ownership; deepen the compradorization and denationalization of third world economies; secure greater protections for monopoly capitalist property and profits. They serve to consolidate monopoly capitalist control by cementing corporate power and rewriting legal protections afforded by country constitutions.
These agreements will further channel the world’s wealth and resources to the hands of the 1% that control the biggest corporations and thus furtherbenefit from greater trade activity and stricter IPR protection as well as investment liberalization schemes.Therefore as the imperialists and their allies gather in the New Zealand’s capital for the signing of the TPPA on 4 February 2016, the ILPS calls on all its members and allied organizations:
Fight the Trans-Pacific Partnership!
Fight the US-instigated Free Trade Agreements under the neoliberal policy of imperialist globalization!
Uphold the sovereign right of underdeveloped and dependent countries to develop and free themselves from monopoly capitalism!