A ‘secret pact’, a ‘copyright trap’, a ‘medical monopoly’ it’s been called many things but that won’t stop western governments from wanting a piece of the unsavoury pact

 

The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) deal has been struck as of the 6th of October 2015. Now before you go nodding off to sleep at what sounds like the least exciting headline of the year I should point out that the TPP could quite easily change the landscape of the world as we know it.

The agreement has been plagued with issues from day one. Not to be confused with TTIP (an equally nasty but separate trade deal) the TPP has the potential to eradicate the sovereign state and, more importantly, the rights of individuals. The question then, the big question, the question on everyone’s lips is: what the hell is the TPP?

That, as it turns out, is a worryingly poignant question. If the TPP were an episode of Sesame Street it would not be brought to you by the word ‘transparency’. All of which is a convoluted way of saying that the deal has been shrouded in secrecy since day one. From the perspective of the US, senators (outside of the executive branch) were not allowed to know anything about the deal. It is only now that the deal has been struck that they are allowed to see the deal, and even then there are stipulations that invite all kinds of trite Kafka comparisons. For starters the senators aren’t allowed to take notes. Good luck memorizing swathes of legalese in the brief time you’ll get with the holy manuscript. That leads us on to the other worrying stipulation: senators aren’t allowed lawyers or advisers to help make sense of the legal jargon that no doubt saturates the text. Now I wonder why there might be some hesitation to get this deal out in front of the public. Well don’t worry, WikiLeaks has it covered.

But before we get into the meat of the TPP let’s consider the already peculiar rights of corporations:

The word corporation originates in the 1600s from the Latin corpus meaning body. A group of people come together and work as one body. Depending on what kind of person you are, that will either bring to your mind the image of a Christ-like utopia or a Power Rangers Megazord. Both are perfectly acceptable.

The reality, however, is a little different. Corporations have multiplied in power to an absurd degree over the last hundred years or so. The corporation began as an entity designed for a singular purpose. Once that purpose was fulfilled, once a bridge was built for instance, the corporation would dissipate; the unified body would revert to its composite parts (to the relief of many spouses waiting at home). Then in comes corporate personhood. This essentially means corporations are given the legal rights and responsibilities of a single human being (not all of the rights though, despite the common misconception).

So now they can sue, be sued, enter into contracts, and essentially act like a single, physical human for most legal purposes. The problem is that this negates moral responsibility. As we’ve seen throughout recent history, groups of powerful people are often devoid of any kind of moral conscience and are notoriously difficult to jail (if we even attempt to jail them).

Apparently bridge building required pencil skirts and unnaturally white teeth
Apparently bridge building required pencil skirts and unnaturally white teeth

The essence of the TPP is, by all accounts, a horrific expansion of the already worrying rights of corporations. The deal has been under negotiation for five years, giving people plenty of time to fight back with websites like Expose the TPP, petitions like Stop The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and even guerilla pressure groups such as Stop Fast Track.

What is so bad about the TPP then? Why is this such a huge step in the wrong direction? There are two hugely dangerous facets of the TPP that could easily threaten life as we know it, as well as millions of lives across the planet.

Copyright. It may seem like a dry topic but copyright doesn’t just apply to cartoon characters and the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. Copyright applies to medicine. It may seem like a crazy idea to those of us not facing terminal illnesses or long-term debilitating conditions. Patents serve as a way for pharma companies to make back their research costs (with a profit of course) but the international alterations to the deal are designed to make copyright last longer to maximize profit. It should go without saying that the longer a drug remains unaffordable the more lives are needlessly lost. It brings to mind the story of the drug company CEO Martin Shkreli who bought the patent for a life-saving medication and increased the price by 5,000 per cent. In doing so he earned the title of Scumbag CEO throughout the internet:

Pioneering murder since 2015
Pioneering murder since 2015

This where things get sexy, where everything gets a bit Blade Runner. Indulge me with a hypothetical for a second. Imagine a corporation wants to dump waste into a river in a rural area near where you live. ‘They can’t do that!’ you might say, and until now you would have been right. However, according to the Investment Chapter of the TPP, as exposed by WikiLeaks, part of the TPP creates what WikiLeaks call a ‘supra-national court, or tribunal, where foreign firms can “sue” states and obtain taxpayer compensation for “expected future profits” ‘.

So corporations can sue the taxpayer (i.e., the state) if they get in the way of the corporation’s profits. The article continues:

‘These investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals are designed to overrule the national court systems … corporations can force governments to pay compensation if the tribunal states that a country’s laws or policies affect the company’s future profits’.

This means exactly what you think it means. It means corporations are given potential free reign, eliminating state sovereignty by overriding local laws. This is not the first time such tribunals have been enacted but in this deal, making them a fundamental part of the legal system, is a new kind of insanity.

To wrap up let’s just make it clear how much of the world is affected by this deal. The TPP represents more than 40 per cent of the world’s economy. It is the largest economic treaty in history. The members of the deal are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei. Granted the UK isn’t a part of it, but give it time. If you think the whole world won’t feel the effects of a deal involving such economic behemoths then you haven’t been paying attention. When it’s made evident how beneficial to corporate greed this deal is there won’t be a country in the developed world not chomping at the bit to get in on the action.

 

Sources:

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/tpp-signed-the-biggest-global-threat-to-the-internet-agreed-as-campaigners-warn-that-secret-pact-a6680321.html

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/07/tpp-copyright-trap-our-last-stand-against-undemocratic-international-agreements

http://www.exposethetpp.org/

http://www.exposethetpp.org/

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-the-trans-pacific

https://www.stopfasttrack.com/

https://wikileaks.org/tpp-investment/press.html