Trade negotiators from the US and eight other Pacific Rim countries met outside of Washington, DC Wednesday, commencing a new round of the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement negotiations, also known as 'Nafta on steroids.'
The TPP negotiations began in 2007 and have been carried through by the Obama administration and several Pacific nations under conditions of 'extreme secrecy' without press, public or policymaker oversight. Although most of the content involved in the discussions have been kept in secret, document leaks have revealed that negotiators are working out deals which could hamper free speech on the Internet, reduce access to affordable medicines, deregulate environmental laws, and harm labor rights around the world.
Earlier this year Public Citizen posted a leaked document from a past TPP meeting on their website revealing that the pact will give multinational corporations radical new political powers in global trade, including the allotment of vast legal powers to multinational corporations over governments.
Today, Amnesty International called on the participating countries, which currently include the U.S., Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, to ensure that any new rules adhere to core principles of transparency and uphold human rights.
However, such hopes have not been secured in they eyes of many rights groups around the world. Critics fear that the agreements will broadly strip rights from ordinary citizens in favor of global financial players to an unprecedented degree.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact has the potential to affect nearly every aspect of our lives as Americans,” said Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club. “Alarmingly, however, is the opaque process in which the trade rules are being written. While hundreds of elite business executives have a hand in writing the rules that will affect American consumers, the public is largely left in the dark. This is a stealth affront to the principles of our democracy.”
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Additionally, leaked information suggests that the agreement could attempt to achieve some of the same objectives as the controversial and broadly protested Anti-Counterfeiting Agreement (ACTA) and includes rules that could hamper free speech on the Internet.
“No one has the right to trade away our hard-fought legal protections for free speech and the right to health, and much less to do it behind closed doors,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director for Amnesty International USA.
“It is time for TPP negotiators to show the public their cards and, more importantly, the draft text of the agreement.”
"The TPP has been cleverly misbranded as a trade agreement (yawn) by its corporate boosters," Lori Wallach wrote for the Nation earlier this year. "Think of the TPP as a stealthy delivery mechanism for policies that could not survive public scrutiny. Indeed, only two of the twenty-six chapters of this corporate Trojan horse cover traditional trade matters. The rest embody the most florid dreams of the 1 percent—grandiose new rights and privileges for corporations and permanent constraints on government regulation. They include new investor safeguards to ease job offshoring and assert control over natural resources, and severely limit the regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare and more."
The new round of meetings will take place over the next 10 days in a secluded resort in Leesburg, Virginia.