Latin American Lawmakers Call for Public Debate on Secretive "Trade" Deal
While the negotiations of the ultra-secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have gone further underground, lawmakers in Chile and Peru are urging their country to open a public debate to shed light on the deal's sweeping implications for their countries.
Last week, members of the Peruvian parliament put forth a resolution (English translation available below) requesting that the government open a "public, political, and technical debate" on the binding rules being negotiated in the TPP. The request mentions several of the lawmakers' specific concerns, including the lack of transparency of the process, proposed TPP provisions limiting access to affordable medicines, and the TPP's expansion of the investor privileges model known as investor-state dispute resolution. Under this system, a wealthy U.S. magnate has demanded that Peru's government pay $800 million for asking the company to comply with its contractual obligation to clean up the grave pollution caused by its metal smelter in La Oroya, one of the world's most polluted communities.
The resolution put forth by the Peruvian lawmakers was introduced a few weeks after four Chilean senators sent a very similar formal request to open a public debate about the TPP in Chile. The document introduced by the Chilean senators quotes Rodrigo Contreras, the ex-lead TPP negotiator for Chile who has been publically critical of the TPP.
Considering that large swaths of domestic policies -- from environmental protections to financial regulations to public health laws -- would need to be rewritten to conform to the TPP's deregulatory rules, it is outrageous that elected lawmakers have been excluded from access to the text or the negotiating process. A public debate about this expansive "trade" deal is long overdue.
Here's the translated text of the Peruvian resolution:
The undersigned Members of Congress of the Republic, members of the group Parlamentario Acción Popular-Frente Amplio, under Article 68 of the Congressional Rules of the Republic, propose the following motion:
Whereas the Transpacific Economic Partnership (TPP), which aims to integrate 12 economies: the U.S., Canada, Peru, Mexico, Brunei, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Chile and Japan, into a free trade zone of the Pacific, seeks to finalize an agreement on goods, services, and agriculture, as well as agreements on intellectual property rights, investment, rules of origin, competition, labor and environmental standards;
Whereas our attention is drawn to the excessive zeal of the negotiations, declared secret, and the lack of transparency making it impossible to know the contents of the TPP negotiation texts and therefore what standards we as a country are implicating.
Whereas the document that leaked in 2011 about the intellectual property chapter proposed by the U.S., proposes to require TPP signatory countries to conform to copyright rules that impose serious limits to intellectual and artistic creation as well as technological innovation putting at risk freedom of expression, privacy and the capacity to innovate of all Peruvians. This being a new attempt to tighten intellectual property rules;
Whereas the TPP promotes mechanisms, rejected in other negotiations, which limit competition and the entry of generic medicines into the market and endanger the aim to protect biologic medicines, particularly important cancer-fighting medicines, and this is a proposal that should not be accepted;
Whereas, additionally, it threatens the free access to information, the use of the internet and cultural goods: the U.S. proposal seeks to impose rigid copyright rules, similar to those criticized in SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) recently rejected in that country, because it would impose serious threats to the right to information, the free use of the internet and other cultural goods (books, software, music, etc.);
Whereas, furthermore, it promotes a model of investment protection that is being questioned internationally because it allows anonymous private capital and transnational corporations to evade domestic courts and challenge necessary measures and the sovereignty of countries, affecting the development of laws in favor of public health or environmental sustainability. We urge the correction of errors that have allowed an $800 million lawsuit to be filed against Peru by Doe Run in the case of La Oroya under the investment chapter of the FTA with the U.S., and to not expand these advantages for corporations with a new set of nine [sic] countries;
With respect to the agreement of the Chilean Senate, dated August 13, 2013, demanding that the President of the Republic open a public debate about the TPP, alerting how it affects national and regional interests.
The agreement says: “Requesting your excellency the President of the Republic that, beyond diplomatic procedures and mechanisms in the context of the negotiation the government is conducting in the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP), to open a public debate, that is technical and political, timely and open, about the implications that the agreement could have for Chile economically and for international relations, especially with respect to the process of regional integration of which we are a part, and of our relationship with China, the country’s main trading partner.”
Whereas it is necessary to have a strong negotiating position in the face of the ambitions and pressure by economically stronger states and reject the imposition of a model conceived for the purpose of the realities of countries with higher incomes, which are very different than the other participating countries;
Whereas it is essential to analyze the impacts and the cost-benefit analysis for the country and determine the reasons for Peru to adhere to this trade agreement;
By the above considerations, the full Congress of the Republic,
First: We ask the government to open a public, political, and technical debate on the proposals of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations of which Peru is a part.
Second: We invite the Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism and the technical team in charge of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to report on the matter.
Lima, 28 de Agosto del 2013