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Where Is The 'Free Trade' In The TPP IP Chapter?

from the still-searching... dept

People have pointed out how KORUS -- the "free trade" agreement that the US signed with South Korea a few years ago, which included draconian intellectual property rules, is "the model" for "modern free trade agreements." It was used as the basis for ACTA, and now it's often pointed to as the model for the TPP as well. When KORUS was first being debated, we wondered why a "free trade" agreement would include rules for stricter monopolies, as that seemed like the exact opposite of free trade. Free trade is about knocking down the walls to protectionism, not building more monopoly power. And yet, that's exactly what it did -- creating tremendous problems to the point that South Korea is now looking for ways to get out of the intellectual property requirements of the agreement.

And yet, defenders of the TPP still point to KORUS as the "model" for TPP and talk it up as if it's been a wonderful and successful agreement. However, it seems that others are noticing that there doesn't appear to be any "free trade" in this "free trade agreement." Instead, it's purely mercantilist cronyism, designed to limit economic growth and public welfare, to benefit a few large legacy companies.
Exhibit A was released by WikiLeaks last week: the latest draft of the "intellectual property" chapter of the agreement, one of 24 (out of 29) chapters that do not have to do with trade. This chapter has provisions that will make it easier for pharmaceutical companies to get patents, including in developing countries; have these patents for more years; and extend the ability of these companies to limit access to the scientific data that is necessary for other researchers to develop new medicines. And the United States is even pushing for provisions that would allow surgical procedures to be patented – provisions that may be currently against US law.

All of these measures will help raise the price of medicines and health care, which will strain public health systems and price some people out of the market for important medicines. It is interesting to see how much worse the TPP is than the WTO's Trips (Trade-Related Aspects of International Property Rights). This, too, was a massive rip-off of consumers and patients throughout the world, but after years of struggle by health advocates and public interest groups, some of its worst features were attenuated, and further consolidation of pharmaceutical companies' interests were blocked.
So why are we increasing protectionism and putting in greater monopoly power in a so-called "free trade" agreement? Because these legacy companies and the USTR long ago learned that if you say something on the label, but then put the exact opposite in the package, the press, the public and plenty of politicians will pretend that what you say on the label is actually in the package.

But it's time to make this clear: almost nothing in the TPP is about actual free trade. Real free trade can be quite beneficial to all trading partners, increasing efficiency and benefiting everyone. But this is not just fake free trade, it's anti-free trade, promoting protectionist, mercantilist monopolies for big political donor legacy companies, because the USTR either thinks that lining the pockets of big political donors is a good way to keep its friends in power or they know that it'll be easier to secure cushy private sector jobs after securing these "favors."

Either way, the next time someone (especially in the press or the government) claims that the TPP is about "free trade" ask them how. And ask them how increasing monopolies and putting up protectionist trade barriers is free trade.

Filed Under: copyright, free trade, mercantilism, monopolies, patents, protectionism, tpp


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  1. identicon
    Chargone, 21 Nov 2013 @ 3:57pm

    Re: Re: Gee, Mike, it's like they're lying.

    Protection from forigen competition is Good and Helpful and bloody necessary if you don't want to end up a functional economic Colony of a more economically powerful trading patener (it happens, and it's the resulting over specialisied coloney economy which gets fucked over by market shifts. The nation-state is actually one step to high Up to apply this though, with functional empires like the USA being even further removed)

    Protection from New Innovation and developement, particularly in the local economy, on the other hand is terrible because it forces The Same over specialisation and Stagnation that protectionism vs other regions is supposed to Prevent.

    These are not contradictory In Any Way.
    In both cases the entire point is to encourage developement and inonovation.
    The bit that makes it non-obvious is that the good, useful, and necessary tools of helpful protectionism are often abused to protect or create (unnatural) monopolies, or simply misaplied through ignorance. (Again, often because they're being used at a National level as a tool of forigen policy or as bribes for election support from various industries, rather than a Regional level to encourage diversity, innovation, and developement.)

    In Both cases monopolies not caused by simple reason of low customer base are to be broken wherever possible, and the natural endpoint of any multi-national corporation (or corporation in general, really) left to it's own devices without regulation is monopoly.

    Local production for local use, baring additional complicated non-economic factors, is Always better for the local economy, even if not 'cheaper', assuming (as those in favour of small government and globalism tend to do, only less so) the resulting benefit is not all stuffed into some rich owner's bank account and used only to buy in thibgs from outside. 'Fee trade' is generally about gutting local production (and thus the local economy) in favour of 'cheap' imports, in exchange for getting better returns on one or two exports... which tend to tank when the markets shift, rarely match the resulting imports in terms of balance of trade, are typically owned by a smaller group and employ less people.

    Fred trade is better Only in that, Actual free trade provides less opertunity for corruption, as a side effect of there being nothing to corrupt.

    Large parts of the US are evidence of this: once great cities now stagnant at best.

    I say the above as a resident of one of the small countries getting screwed over by such 'free trade'.
    'Free trade' was a large part of how the european empires maintained control of their colonies for so long, as it rendered them incapable of functioning independant of trade with the home country of the empire. Not without dropping decades to centuries back in developement, at least.

    Inter-region Free trade benefits the powerful at the expense of the less so.
    The other sort (essentially 'freedom to engage in a trade) typically benefits everyone at the expense of control-freaks and excessively greedy non-productive types. (You know, the sort who end up in that top 1-5 percent without having Founded the productive business which made them their money.)

    There is a difference.
    It's Important.

    (Damnit, tablet, remember when I'm signed in already!...)

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