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TPP: Integration or finance and profit?
Author: Dr. Jorge R. Bruni, 21-3-16
Translated by Anoosha Boralessa (March 2016). Not reviewed by bilaterals.org or any other organization or person.
The last ten years have left in our America important elements for reflecting on continental integration, and respecting the recent agreement of the Transpacific Economic Partnership (TPP), which has 12 state parties. In this period, the FTAAs collapsed - the Summit of Mar del Plata in 2005 is still fresh in our minds. The following institutions were born: Unasur in 2011; Celac in 2010- 2011 and the Pacific Alliance in June 2012. The latter not only goes against the other processes of integration mentioned, but was also notoriously influenced by the US.
There are other well-known challenges for our continent to reach adequate and deep integration that is vital to the future. Everything indicates that political differences are not minimized by integrationist approaches. The TPP is clear evidence of this. The TPP has nothing to do with those processes, unfittingly coined “integrationist” which we have [just] mentioned. And note that we are not referring to other processes.
Amid this panorama, in February 2016, the news was announced that, after six years of secret negotiations, the TPP had been signed by states including Chile, Peru and Mexico among the 12 countries that comprised it. The conglomerate of member states represent a potential market of 805 million consumers, consolidating 37% of the global GDP and absorbing 27% of global imports. In the logic of free trade, it is natural that the discussion of this conglomerate is border protectionism within and liberalism vis-à-vis the rest of the world. At issue is the largest process existing outside the WTO, an organization at standstill and clearly in the process of weakening.
Some, though not all features, merit particular attention as they hold up a policy of deep integration that our continent requires. Unavoidably. Obviously the TPP, considering the statistics mentioned and the importance of its member states, acquires global dimensions. The treaty which has still not been ratified, must be submitted to the National Legislative Powers for approval or rejection without the slightest amendment being allowed. A type of approval, with the closed covers, after secret negotiations lasting for years. It is an overwhelmingly clear sign, is it not? We could give many more figures and percentages, but it is more important for us to insist on:
I) differences relating to integration between our countries;
II) taking the position that the TPP goes against this;
III) the obvious progress made by the right wing on our continent.
Its 30 plus chapters regulate numerous issues that range from trade, labour and environmental provisions, copyright, intellectual property, patents and businesses, the State and state investors, public procurements, services and dispute resolution. In addition, the latter are not resolved in national courts but by Foreign Arbitrations. This has caused recognized North American jurists to declare that it is contrary to US traditions and practices. (1)
And what does it say about Copyright and Intellectual Property?
Medicines and its scientific process are protected: patents are granted and the period for which they are granted has even been extended. The scientific process of research obtains an extension of secrecy for up to 12 years. But the researcher’s monopoly over his invention could be given a longer extension. As for copyright, this is protected for up to 70 years after death. The US is the main exporter of protected products, and copyright. What does it think? Oh what a coincidence!
And if we are talking about Electronic Commerce we wonder, where can it go to stop privacy rights?
The TPP provisions are drafted in such a way that it generates huge concerns on account of the limits it places on human rights: obstacles to access to generic medicines; difficulties in accessing knowledge and culture and the rights of consumers, etc. It has little or no connection with genuine integration with all the Human Rights that are at stake. Rather it is about trade, finance, profit, monopolies etc. We have Chile, Peru and Mexico in the TPP, where US leadership is undisputable. In recent decades this triad has been characterized by having drafts of international integration based on Free Trade treaties that are signed with the US, the European Union and many other countries in the world. The three constitute in their turn, together with Colombia, the so-called Pacific Alliance.
It is certain that, by delaying and going into more detail, the existing gap in respect of integrationist policies on our continent will persist. Some take the path of economic deregulation and economic liberalization. The Pacific Alliance is a clear example. Others claim to achieve an integration that is somewhat different. But to date, all this talk of integration in Latin America in general generates a lot of theory and very little action; and disputes and disappointments. We will have to revert to it. It is beyond doubt that it is a key fact for the continent.
(1) There is a range of criticisms among which we highlight Joseph Stiglitz’s. He expressed that “some call the TPP a catalyst for reforms; I call it a catalyst for inequality”. In turn, Paul Krugman has said that “what the TPP will do is to increase the capacity of some corporations to control, inter alia, intellectual property.”.