After negotiators failed
to complete negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement a few months ago in Maui, there was some concern as to whether or not they'd ever be able to finish the agreement. They called a special negotiating session in Atlanta that began last week, and was supposed to last just a few days to "iron out the details." Except that got extended. And then extended again. And after promises of an announcement last night, they apparently brought in boxes of pizza and told reporters they were going to pull an all nighter to complete the agreement.
Because, of course, when trying to complete an agreement that could reshape global norms on investment, regulations, intellectual property and a little bit of trade... staying up all night sounds like a grand idea
And just like you after staying up all night before your college finals, negotiators think
that this all-nighter worked. This morning they announced a final deal
But also that it won't be public for maybe a month or so. And then there will be some debate over it, but thanks to Congress caving
in on fast track authority, Congress has almost no ability to point out flaws in the agreement. They can only give it a clean yes or no vote. In the announcement, negotiators (not surprisingly) played up all the tariffs that will be wiped out by this agreement. That's the one part that I'm fine with. Trade tariffs are a mostly bad idea, and getting rid of them is fine. But the TPP is not about trade
. That's just a pretext.
The key parts are really about regulations and investment. Indeed, two of the big sticking points concerning patent-like exclusive rights on certain new pharmaceutical compounds ("biologics"), where the US was pushing for at least 12-year exclusivity periods to drive up the price of drugs around the globe, while Australia and other countries were pushing for five years. It sounds like there was a compromise that allows for a range from five to eight years, but, again, who the hell knows until we see the details. At the press conference, negotiators refused to give any details, other than suggesting they came up with text that pretends to satisfy everyone. That is, officially it's five years but there are "other regulations" that bring things closer to the US's demanded 12 years. Another point of contention was on the infamous corporate sovereignty provision
, officially called "investor state dispute settlement" (ISDS), which is a boring sounding name for saying that foreign companies can take entire countries to special tribunals if they feel that new regulations in those countries negatively impact profits. These tribunals are a joke and put corporate interests over sovereign country interests.
The one real "compromise" here is that the agreement apparently excludes tobacco companies. As we've noted a few times in the past, tobacco companies have used these corporate sovereignty provisions in other trade agreements to sue countries
that pass anti-smoking laws of any kind. Last year, the US floated
this compromise idea, that if tobacco companies were excluded, the rest of ISDS would remain in place. And it sounds like that's what happened.
Either way, at some point the final text will be revealed and then there will be lots of shouting and screaming, but rest assured that the USTR and the Obama administration are going to fight like crazy to get this approved, because they (very stupidly) see this as part of Obama's "legacy." The compromises may make things a bit more difficult, because the compromises on pharmaceuticals and tobacco will piss off two of the biggest lobbyists in support of the agreement.
From the sound of things, the rest of the intellectual property chapter hasn't changed much since the May version leaked
. It's unclear if the USTR ever did push for clearer fair use
provisions as was rumored. Chances are they're not in there, but, again, we won't know for a bit, because... "secret trade deal."
And, really, the most sickening part in all of this, beyond the efforts to increase drug prices globally, beyond the efforts to extend copyright terms, beyond the efforts to limit fair use, beyond the efforts to give companies corporate sovereignty over nations... is the ridiculous willingness of the US government to look the other way on human trafficking/slave labor. As you may recall, part of the fast track authority was that this agreement could not include countries designated as human trafficking hot spots. Malaysia, one of the negotiating countries was included in that list. But, no problem, the State Department, for purely political purposes, upgraded Malaysia
, even though the country has shown no improvement at all, and just two months earlier police had found 139 mass graves found along a path where migrant workers had been trafficked.
What a "legacy" for President Obama: "compromising" in a way that helps big companies sue countries that pass bad legislation, drive up the price of drugs, decrease access to culture... and look the other way on human trafficking. And now it's a "done" deal.