U. S. And Japan TPP Talks Fail Again*
Six months ago, Democracy Now wrote:
“As the federal government shutdown continues, Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Asia for secret talks on a sweeping new trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is often referred to by critics as “NAFTA on steroids,” and would establishing a free-trade zone that would stretch from Vietnam to Chile, encompass 800 million people — about a third of world trade and nearly 40 percent of the global economy. While the text of the treaty has been largely negotiated behind closed doors and until June, kept secret from Congress, more than 600 corporate advisors reportedly have access to the measure, including employees of Halliburton, and Monsanto”.
‘Behind closed doors’ means that in this case there were no standards – no guidelines set the result of which is global governance reclaiming the liberty to reap all the wealth, and benefits flow in one direction, towards them. What benefit would there be from Japan, riddled with radiation poisoning to the extent that countries have begun banning importation of Japanese foods?
Fortunately, the secret neo-colonial TPP trade talks with Japan failed…
A broad agreement on the terms of a cross-Pacific trade pact has again proved elusive as the two biggest economies at the negotiating table remain at odds over tariffs.
The latest round of ministerial talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership ended here Tuesday without the deal that some had hoped to reach last December. Attention now turns to whether the 12 countries will try again before U.S. President Barack Obama travels to Asia in April.
Lim Hng Kiang, Singapore’s trade minister, tried to put a brave face on the situation, telling reporters that progress had been made. But there was no hint of optimism in the stony expressions of the rest of the ministers seated at the news conference, which took place more than two hours early after they cut short the deadlocked talks.
The U.S. had envisioned a two-stage way forward. First would come a general agreement on the rules of trade, helped along by concessions to Vietnam and other countries resistant to reforming state-owned enterprises. Tariff negotiations, which revolve around the U.S. and Japan, would conclude later on.
This scenario proved unworkable.
“Market access is in some aspects the heart and soul of any trade agreement, so until that’s done, we don’t have an agreement,” New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser told reporters.
Ministers from emerging markets also objected to a deal that left tariff issues unresolved. No side was willing to venture a compromise in the absence of an agreement between the U.S. and Japan.
Japan, meanwhile, seems to have overestimated the strength of its position. Tokyo reckoned it had an understanding with Washington on three of Japan’s five “sensitive” areas — rice, wheat and sugar. On rice and wheat, the thinking was that America would let some Japanese tariffs survive if Japan increased its annual import quotas. But in recent bilateral talks, the U.S. insisted that Japan drop import duties on virtually all farm products.
“On the whole, the TPP negotiations have come 70-80% of the way,” Akira Amari, Japan’s economic policy minister, told reporters Tuesday, saying that his meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman had “deepened the discussions.”
But when tariffs are on the table, the hardest bits come last. The Singapore meeting ended without tangible progress on this final hurdle. Counting on a breakthrough with emerging markets, America tried playing hardball with Japan, which had expected a softer approach. These miscalculations proved decisive.
Setting a deadline for an agreement is no longer an important issue, Malaysian Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed told reporters. Indeed, with the momentum toward an early conclusion flagging, countries have more freedom to raise their arguments.
A senior U.S. State Department official called reaching a deal before Obama’s trip to Asia a top priority for the administration.
“There are gaps that remain, clearly,” Froman said of negotiations between the U.S. and Japan. “But our teams are working to try to bridge them.”
One possible scenario is to have an agreement by the time the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit convenes in May, Yasutoshi Nishimura, senior vice minister at Japan’s Cabinet Office, said in a television appearance.
But as the November U.S. congressional elections near, American TPP opponents will likely grow bolder. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may need to take a more forward role ahead of Obama’s visit.
By Dean Baker
And it certainly does not mean that the country will benefit from everything that those in power label as “free trade”. That is the story we are seeing now as the Obama administration is pursuing two major “free trade” agreements that in fact have very little to do with free trade and are likely to hurt those without the money and power to be part of the game.
The deals in questions, the Trans-Pacific Partnership ( TPP) and the US-European Union “Free Trade” Agreement are both being pushed as major openings to trade that will increase growth and create jobs. In fact, eliminating trade restrictions is a relatively small part of both agreements, since most tariffs and quotas have already been sharply reduced or eliminated.
Rather, these deals are about securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests. In some cases, such as increased patent and copyright protection, these deals are 180 degrees at odds with free trade. They are about increasing protectionist barriers.
All the arguments that trade economists make against tariffs and quotas apply to patent and copyright protection. The main difference is the order of magnitude. Tariffs and quotas might raise the price of various items by 20 or 30 percent. By contrast, patent and copyright protection is likely to raise the price of protected items 2,000 percent or even 20,000 percent above the free market price. Drugs that would sell for a few dollars per prescription in a free market would sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars when the government gives a drug company a patent monopoly.
In the case of drug patents, the costs go beyond just dollars and cents. Higher drug prices will have a direct impact on the public’s health, especially in some of the poorer countries that might end up being parties to these agreements.
There are also a wide variety of regulatory issues that are being pursued through these agreements in large part because there would be difficulty getting them accepted through the normal political process. For example, the sort of government mandated internet policing that was part of the shipwrecked Stop Online Piracy Act is likely to reappear in one or both agreements.
It is also likely that rules that limit the power of governments to restrict fracking could be in the agreements. Such rules could prohibit not only the federal government, but also state or county governments, from imposing restrictions designed to protect the public’s health.
If you’re thinking what has this got to do with me, think genetically modified foods, and the pharmaceutical industry – the former makes you ill, and the both reap the benefits. This comes at a time when more and more countries are banning all forms of GM foods and technology; increasingly societies are claiming their sovereignty.
WikiLeaks reported the TPP is the “largest-ever economic treaty,” encompassing 12 participating nations representing more than 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, or GDP. Current TPP negotiation member states include the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei…
According to the WikiLeaks statement accompanying the document release, the process of drafting and negotiating the treaty’s chapters has been shrouded in an unprecedented level of secrecy.
The press release notes:
Access to drafts of the TPP chapters is shielded from the general public. Members of the US Congress are only able to view selected portions of treaty-related documents in highly restrictive conditions and under strict supervision. It has been previously revealed that only three individuals in each TPP nation have access to the full text of the agreement, while 600 ’trade advisers’ – lobbyists guarding the interests of large US corporations such as Chevron, Halliburton, Monsanto and Walmart – are granted privileged access to crucial sections of the treaty text.
WikiLeaks stressed the 95-page, 30,000-word Intellectual Property Chapter lays out provisions for instituting a far-reaching, transnational legal and enforcement regime, modifying or replacing existing laws in TPP member states.
“The Chapter’s subsections include agreements relating to patents (who may produce goods or drugs), copyright (who may transmit information), trademarks (who may describe information or goods as authentic) and industrial design,” the WikiLeaks statement said.
The longest section of the Intellectual Property Chapter, titled “Enforcement,” is devoted to detailing new policing measures, with far-reaching implications for individual rights, civil liberties, publishers, Internet service providers and Internet privacy, as well as for the creative, intellectual, biological and environmental commons, WikiLeaks said.
Particular measures proposed include supranational litigation tribunals to which sovereign national courts are expected to defer but which have no human rights safeguards.
The TPP Intellectual Property Chapter states that the courts can conduct hearings with secret evidence.