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.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2013 @ 1:34pm

    Re:

    I thought it meant that the US will "freely" give you this crappy agreement in exchange for your countries "trading" your cojones, first born, rights, liberties, and ability to grow and profit.

    We will freely take what we want in trade for giving you nothing... trading your future for free "magic beans" so to speak

    But I think Jack still got a better deal.... /s

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