by International Movement for a Just World
December 08, 2015
Following nearly eight years of negotiations, 12 Pacific Rim
the United States
... have agreed to take part in the
Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP),
a sweeping trade deal that affects some 40 percent of the global
The International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
has closely monitored the TPP throughout the negotiation period and
regards several aspects of the draft text as deeply troubling from
the perspective of,
While advocates of the deal have
attempted to allay public criticism, there is a need to reaffirm
concerns shared by wide segments of society across all the
The TPP aims to enforce a common regulatory framework structured
around the norms of American trade policies that govern rules for
tariffs and trade disputes, patents and intellectual property,
foreign investment, and other areas such as environmental
regulations and internet governance.
Despite a level of secrecy that barred even elected public
representatives of participating countries from access to the deal's
draft text during the negotiating process, advisors from major
multinational corporations played a consistent, key role in forming
the deal's proposed measures.
This is no ordinary trade deal - it is a fundamental aspect of
Washington's pivot-to-Asia policy, involving the large-scale
refocusing of American corporate and military muscle within the
heart of the
The TPP aims at nothing less than formulating new rules for
international trade around core US strategic interests, and in the
process overshadowing key functions of the World Trade
Organization (WTO), a comparatively more even platform for
discussing issue of global trade.
The agreement does not include China... The exclusion
of the region's largest economy and world's second-largest (and by
some measures largest) economy is no accident.
It is a central aspect of the TPP's
strategic policy function:
harnessing the power of the
developing nations throughout ASEAN as an economic counterweight
to Beijing for the benefit of the United States.
As the TPP is implemented, it is
possible that friction could occur between Washington and Beijing,
as the former reaps preferential treatment from the agreement, which
in turn could affect relations between China and certain ASEAN
states to the detriment of peace and stability in the region.
Only 4 out of 10 ASEAN states are party to the agreement's founding
group; the trade ties that will emerge from the TPP, which will
reflect the inclusion of some ASEAN states and the exclusion of
others, could be inimical to intra-ASEAN harmony.
The most egregious aspect of the trade deal is the
Investor-State-Dispute Settlement (ISDS)
mechanism, which would allow corporations to seek restitution
against states in an international arbitration court for the
contraction of their potential future profits as a result of
ISDS-enforced agreements effectively put global multinational
companies on a level legal playing field with national governments,
thereby limiting the scope of domestic policies that governments can
undertake without potentially being challenged for impinging on
Acquiescing to ISDS provisions systematically undermines the
integrity of public institutions in participating countries and
their domestic arbitration instruments while significantly lowering
the bargaining power of domestic labour and rights advocacy groups.
The agreement encompasses numerous areas of concern that intimately
relate to human health and well-being:
unimpeded entry of
genetically modified products
into domestic markets
the gradual elimination of
tariffs on alcoholic beverages and tobacco
the neglect of any measures to
combat climate-disrupting emissions spurred on increased
shipping and mass consumption
the drastic extension of patents
that will impede access to affordable medicines
Furthermore, proposed regulations of the
internet will require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to
more actively monitor users to enforce copyright protections at the
expense of individual privacy.
In actuality, the TPP obliges signatory countries to reshape
their national laws and economic policies to conform to a
neo-liberal agenda set by giant multinational corporations, to the
benefit of local elites at the expense of the region's working
classes and poor.
The agreement's political undercurrents are apparent in view of the
unprecedented measures that the US is attempting to push through
that codify legislation to combat the boycott, divestment and
sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel - essentially designed
to discourage governments around the world from participating in BDS
activities by leveraging the incentive of free trade with the US.
The economic policies pushed by the US and its allies - backed to
the hilt by multinational corporate interests are demonstrably
against the public good and show disregard for national sovereignty
and political independence.
Facing notable domestic opposition, each country must now assess its
own situation and decide whether or not to agree to the deal's
It should not be forgotten that Malaysia
withdrew from a Malaysia-US Free Trade Agreement negotiation
in 2009 because the deal being negotiated was perceived to be
against national interests.
JUST believes that Malaysia would be better off showing similar
courage in the face of the TPP.
It isn't a question of 'losing out' or
being 'left behind'. ASEAN itself has initiated its own vision for
free trade, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP),
with negotiations expected to be completed next year.
ASEAN and the region as a whole would be better positioned to throw
its weight behind a trade architecture that is inclusive, formulated
on a truly level playing field and capable of demonstrating greater
respect for national sovereignty and social priorities.