New Leaked TPP Documents Reveal Daunting Obstacles for Obama's 2013 Deadline to Complete the Deal
Vaunted 2013 Deadline for TPP Passes as Singapore Ministerial Ends Without a Deal, More Talks Slated for 2014

U.S. TPP Proposals Defy Congressional Objectives, Unanimous Partner Country Opposition

The most recent leaks on the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations reveal that the Obama administration’s trade negotiators are remarkably isolated in pushing controversial proposals for the deal, from increasing pharmaceutical corporations’ monopoly patent protections to empowering foreign corporations to challenge domestic policies in private tribunals.

In fact, a leaked chart detailing countries’ positions last month on the most contentious issues shows that the United States stands alone among TPP countries on 1 out of every 4 controversial issues.  In each of these contentious areas, all other TPP countries that have taken a position have rejected U.S. demands.  If adding issues in which the U.S. position is shared by just one or two of the 11 other negotiating partners, more than 40% of the unresolved issues constitute unpopular demands made by the United States, often at the behest of corporate interests.  Such divisions cast doubt on the Obama administration’s ability to meet its stated goal of concluding TPP negotiations this year, much less by tomorrow’s end of the current negotiating round in Singapore.

But the U.S. demands not only put U.S. trade negotiators at odds with other TPP nations, but with many members of the U.S. Congress.  Below is a chart of some of the U.S. TPP positions revealed in recent leaks, juxtaposed with statements by members of Congress that directly contradict the U.S. position.  Such lack of concern for congressional priorities in the secretive TPP negotiations does not bode well for the administration’s ability to secure the extraordinary Fast Track authority it seeks to railroad the TPP through Congress.  More than 150 Democrats and about 30 Republicans have already indicated their opposition to Fast Track.  Revelations of the rogue U.S. positions in the TPP negotiations stand to invite further opposition. 

Position of U.S. TPP Negotiators

Position of Members of Congress

Currency Manipulation: There is no evidence from the recent leaks that U.S. negotiators have tabled any proposal to counteract currency manipulation within the TPP.

Bipartisan majorities of both the House and Senate (60 Senators and 230 Representatives) have signed letters explicitly calling for currency manipulation disciplines to be included in the TPP.  Congressional leaders on trade policy such as Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) have flatly stated that they will oppose the TPP if it does not include currency manipulation disciplines.

Access to Medicines: U.S. TPP negotiators are demanding terms, rejected by nearly all other TPP countries, that would allow pharmaceutical corporations to extend monopoly patent protections to the detriment of cheaper generic medicines, and that would impede governments’ ability to negotiate lower medicine costs for public health programs.

Members of Congress have repeatedly criticized the inclusion of such proposals in the TPP, which would not only decrease access to life-saving medicines abroad, but would hamper the Obama administration’s own efforts to lower health care costs at home. Today six House members again denounced such provisions in a letter to Obama, stating, “trade negotiations conducted behind closed doors are not the place to make changes that would have such profound consequences for patients and veterans, as well as state and federal budgets.”

Internet Freedom: The U.S. proposals for copyright provisions, rejected by most other TPP countries, include draconian rules, such as requiring Internet Service Providers to police common web content.

Defenders of Internet freedom and online innovation in Congress have long pushed against the inclusion of such terms in the TPP, which were roundly defeated in the polemical Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). In a press conference last Thursday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Cal.) stated, “It looks like there are some elements of SOPA that are being inserted in this trade agreement and I don’t think the American people are going to put up with it.”

Wall Street Reform: The recent leaks reveal that the U.S. TPP negotiators has shown “zero flexibility” in its demands, which reportedly include 1990s-era deregulatory rules that conflict with efforts to rein in Wall Street risk-taking, and a ban on capital controls – a widely-endorsed policy tool to prevent speculative capital flows from contributing to financial crises.

Members of Congress such as Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich) and Rep. Barney Frank (retired, D-Mass) have made clear that deals like the TPP must not inhibit usage of capital controls.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has warned against the usage of the TPP as a backdoor means of rolling back Wall Street reforms, calling such deals “a chance for these banks to get something done quietly out of sight that they could not accomplish in a public place with the cameras rolling and the lights on.”

Corporate Tribunals: The U.S. has faced near-unanimous pushback from TPP countries related to it proposal to empower foreign corporations to bypass domestic courts and challenge TPP governments before private tribunals for health, environmental and other public interest policies they see as inhibiting “expected future profits.” 

Members of Congress continue to criticize this extraordinary TPP proposal to expand the “investor-state” system, which corporations are currently using to attack Canada’s medicine patent policies, Australia’s tobacco controls, and Germany’s phase-out of nuclear energy.  In a statement from the House floor last Wednesday, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), criticized the proposal for the TPP to empower foreign corporations to bypass domestic courts, creating “situations where a foreign-owned business could have more power than our own sovereign courts…”

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