Hundreds Of Thousands Take To The Streets Of Taiwan To Protest Against Trade Agreement's Lack of Scrutiny
from the sound-familiar? dept
One of the key problems with both the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), is the lack of scrutiny. Both deals are being negotiated in almost complete secrecy, with very little information being released officially. The justification for this, such as it is, is that the public will have a chance to see the agreements once they are finished, and that this is the appropriate time for transparency. The emptiness of that promise has been shown by the Polish Ministry of Economy's reply to some questions from the Modern Poland Foundation:
all the information the EU member states obtained from the European Commission is classified and it is not possible to pass it on outside the state administration. This also concerns the Foundation's request to access the text of the chapter on IPR and the Polish stance in this matter.
As that makes clear, the public will only get to see TTIP after it has been signed, when it can no longer be changed. The European Commissioners' idea of transparency turns out to be a cruel joke at the expense of the public that pays their not-inconsiderable salaries.
In compliance with the EU practices, the text of the treaty will be made available only in the final stage of the negotiations, after the signing of the document by both parties.
However, TTIP and TPP are not the only trade agreements being negotiated behind closed doors. Another has been concluded between China and Taiwan, with a similar lack of scrutiny. In scenes that recall the demonstrations across Europe when people found that they had no power to change ACTA, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Taiwan's capital city, Taipei:
Large crowds of demonstrators took to the streets of Taipei to protest efforts by the government to approve a trade pact with Beijing and show support for the students who have occupied Taiwan's legislature for nearly two weeks.
As the New York Times article quote above explains, a key complaint is the fact that there would be no meaningful scrutiny:
Organizers estimated that at least 350,000 people were gathered, as of 2 p.m., on the streets around the Presidential Office Building to express discontent over a pact that would open up dozens of service fields to cross-strait investment. Police counted 116,000 demonstrators by 4 p.m., according to Taiwan's Central News Agency, while some television news stations put the number as high as 700,000.
While many demonstrators are opposed to the service trade pact, the most widely held complaint was that the measure has not been sufficiently examined. A poll before the occupation of the legislature indicated that more than 70 percent of respondents supported a line-by-line review of the pact.
That line-by-line review is precisely what granting "fast track authority" to the White House and USTR would make impossible for TPP and TTIP; instead, Congress would have a single "yes" or "no" vote on whether to accept one or both.
The ACTA demonstrations in Europe led to the agreement being rejected by the European Parliament two years ago; now it looks like the Taiwanese authorities have also admitted defeat:
On Saturday, [Taiwan's President] Mr. Ma attempted to respond to some of the students' demands, saying he would back an itemized review of the trade pact and a law that would allow the legislature to more closely monitor agreements with Beijing.
In the light of the massive protests that swept through Europe in 2012, and those now filling the streets of Taipei, both of which were triggered by the refusal to allow any meaningful scrutiny of trade agreements that would have major consequences for everyday life, the question has to be: do the USTR and European Commission really want to run the risk of repeating that experience by pushing through TPP and TTIP in exactly the same undemocratic manner?