Betweeen the Lines | Sept. 26, 2012
Critics decry secrecy, corporate access to Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations
Interview with Ben Beachy, research director with Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, conducted by Scott Harris
Unlike NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement which was the subject of heated political debate in the U.S during the 1990s, a new free trade treaty, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, has escaped most public attention and controversy. The proposed free trade treaty, the largest in U.S. history, includes the nations of Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam. Japan, China, Mexico and Canada are expected to join the talks later. Although ongoing negotiations have been kept secret, leaked documents reveal that U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk is pushing countries involved in negotiations to give pharmaceutical companies new patent and monopoly rights that could limit the public’s access to affordable medicines, such as retroviral drugs to treat HIV and AIDS.
Other concerns center around the treaty’s expansion of corporate power to challenge national laws on worker rights, environmental regulations and consumer protections.
Despite the fact that TPP negotiations have been held under conditions of unprecedented secrecy, some 600 corporate advisers have access to details of the talks, including draft text of the treaty’s language, while the public, members of Congress, journalists, and civil society are excluded. During the most recent round of treaty negotiations in Leesburg, Va., protesters from labor, consumer and environmental groups engaged in peaceful protest and direct action to focus public attention on their demand for more transparency in the negotiations.
While U.S. officials have pledged to hold a public comment period and congressional review after Trans-Pacific Partnership talks are complete, critics maintain this isn’t enough to provide civil society any meaningful input into the final language of the treaty. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Ben Beachy, research director with Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, who describes the many concerns labor, consumer and environmental groups have with ongoing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
Find links to more information on free trade agreements at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch’s blog "Eyes on Trade" at Citizen.typepad.com/eyesontrade.