Category: TPP

The predators behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Buyer beware

Powerful corporations have been allowed to swallow the state; they have, as economist James Galbraith explains, created a “predator state,” which they naturally exploit for their own expansion. There is no frame of reference with which we can more convincingly define the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Politicians please read the small print and beware, if you sign up to the TPP you will be selling Australia down the river.

via The predators behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership – » The Australian Independent Media Network

How the World’s Biggest Polluters are Two Trade Deals Away from Steamrolling Climate Protections | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

When TransCanada announced at the start of the year that it that it was demanding compensation under North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rules for the Obama administration’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, many observers saw it as a sign of things to come.

Source: How the World’s Biggest Polluters are Two Trade Deals Away from Steamrolling Climate Protections | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

TTIP: Fake freedom moves closer to open slavery — RT Op-Edge

The new trade negotiations – TTIP – sound dull. It combines the US and EU markets to make the process of fleecing the sheep simpler and cheaper for the wolves. Standard procedure, you may say – and you would be right.

Source: TTIP: Fake freedom moves closer to open slavery — RT Op-Edge

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Threatens Our Liberty | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Economic theory holds that removing trade barriers among nations should increase global wealth. But the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership that Congress must soon give a straight up-or-down vote threatens our liberties as Americans and is likely to add almost nothing to U.S. economic growth. I have been a longtime critic of the agreement, especially since WikiLeaks obtained a draft of its intellectual property provisions, showed a clear bias in favor of corporations.

Source: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Threatens Our Liberty | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

TPP signing sparks dozens of protests across US over biggest trade pact — RT USA

Over 35 protests were organized in US cities to mark opposition to the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a huge international trade deal between 12 Pacific Rim nations representing 40 percent of the global economy.

Source: TPP signing sparks dozens of protests across US over biggest trade pact — RT USA

“We have a distorted economy”: Joseph Stiglitz sounds off on inequality, the TPP and 2016 Nobel Prize-winning economist tells Salon why inequality is a choice and offers his take on Obama’s big trade deal Elias Isquith

"We have a distorted economy": Joseph Stiglitz sounds off on inequality, the TPP and 2016

Joseph Stiglitz (Credit: AP/Richard Drew)

During the long run-up to officially announcing her second presidential bid, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quietly — but not too quietly — reached out to a number of leading progressive economists. Along with experts from some of the biggest unions in the country, the list of Clinton conferees included some of the biggest names in the (small) world of left-wing economics: former Clinton-era Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, for example. Yet out of all the so-called boldfaced names intended to draw lefty wonks’ attention, none inspired more cautious optimism than that of Columbia University professor and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

In part, that’s because Stiglitz, like his contemporary and fellow Nobel-winner Paul Krugman, is a brilliant economist who proves that, contrary to what many conservatives say, a firm grasp of the dismal science does not inexorably lead to libertarianism. More important, though, was his association with the problem of inequality — both on political and economic grounds. His 2011 piece on inequality for Vanity Fair made a splash (among the types of people who read Vanity Fair); and his 2012 book “The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future” — which is now available in paperback — was an even bigger hit.

Recently, Salon spoke over the phone with Stiglitz about his new book, “The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them,” the roots of inequality, and what he wants to see from the 2016 presidential candidates to prove they’re taking the issue seriously. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.

So this book originally came out in 2012, and now it’s 2015. Are you more optimistic now than you were then? Or less?

I think the good news is the way that, in the opening shots of the 2016 campaign, candidates across the political spectrum have said that inequality is a major issue facing the United States. Sometimes they’re not phrasing it exactly about inequality — some say the struggles of the middle class— but of course they’re talking about inequality and that’s very heartening. Obviously, when I hear reports about the amount of money that this campaign is going to cost, and the projections that it will be well in excess of what the last presidential campaign cost, which is $2 billion, I get depressed. Those campaign contributions, as I’ve said often, are investments, not donations. They’re investments in where the investors expect to get a return and that return is shaping our economy to serve their interests.

Republicans, especially former Gov. Jeb Bush, like to talk about a lack of opportunity rather than inequality. Does the distinction make much of a difference?

When they first began making that argument, Paul Ryan said, We’re not interested in inequality of outcomes, we’re concerned about equality of opportunity. But as I point out in my book “The Great Divide,” the fact is we don’t have equality of opportunity. We are among the countries in the advanced world with the least equality of opportunity. So if they think that’s an answer to the question of inequality of income, wealth, justice, all those other kinds of inequality, it’s obviously not. The fact that there’s a huge literature of both theory and empirical evidence saying that the two are very highly correlated means that they can’t escape talking about equality of outcomes, that is to say counties with more inequality of outcomes, the incomes have greater inequality of opportunity. In a sense, the two issues are inextricably linked.

One of the more middle-of-the-road policy responses to inequality you’ll hear about is improving education. But that point of view also has its critics. What do you think of that approach?

That’s sometimes called part of a minimalist apple pie agenda. I’m very convinced that that won’t go far enough and what’s happened in the last fifteen years, has made it even more clear that that won’t go far enough. Since the beginning of the century, even educated people have not been doing very well. They’re only doing well relative to those without a college education. So those without a college education, have seen their incomes really sink and those with a college education have been treading water. So what is going on is much more fundamental, it’s much deeper than that. It is part of any agenda but it’s just a part and won’t really address the fundamental problems going on.

You make a point in the book of arguing that the 1 percent doesn’t flourish because it’s so much better than the rest of us, but rather because our economic system is in many ways rigged to their benefit. What do you mean by that?

One way of thinking about that is to try to think about the textbook model of economics — thousands of producers, competing with each other, each so small that it has no effect on price. Almost the only industry for which that is true is agriculture and that’s an industry where government presence is very, very strong and where government presence is basically designed as an agricultural program that helps the very big farmers with very little of the money going to the small farmers.

More broadly, there are a huge number of examples of this: in ’93, we recognized the inequities of CEO pay and passed a law that said if the pay was so-called performance-related than it was exempt from the special tax that was put on excessive pay. Well, what that did is just open the floodgates and allow every company to re-label their pay as performance pay. Many of us pointed out that these new stock options— which were so-called performance pay — were very non-transparent. Shareholders didn’t know how the value of their shares were being diluted, and we tried to push for greater transparency, but we ended up maintaining this system that encouraged dishonest creative accounting and allowed these bonuses which have very little to do with actual incentive.

That’s a very dramatic example of a legal tax structure that benefits the one percent. At the other extreme, laws that have been passed that make it more difficult for unions, for workers to get together and unionize, globalization rules that almost encourage firms to invest abroad, allowing firms to threaten to move abroad if workers don’t accept lower wages and worse working conditions. All of that has weakened labor. So these are just a few examples by which our rules and regulations have empowered the top and disempowered everybody else.

You also argue that, ultimately, inequality on this scale is bad for everyone — the 1 percent included. Why do you think it’s not in their best interest, either?

The idea is that a strong theory and empirical evidence that inequality is bad for economic performance, that it leads to lower growth and more instability. Back in 1980, the Reagan team said, Let’s try this new experiment of supply-side economics, where we lower the taxes on the top and they said don’t worry that this is going to lead to more inequality, the people at the bottom are going to benefit, because we’re going to get more growth. There’s no evidence for that, and now thirty-some years later, we have the results of that experiment. The combination of lower growth and a lower share of what growth has occurred–in fact negative shared–meant that the people in the middle and on the bottom have been worse off.

Now, you run that engine in reverse, that reasoning in reverse and you say, well, if it is the case that we actually grow the economy better by having more equality, then it’s at least conceivable that those at the top might get a smaller share than the outrageous share that they’re getting today, but the pie would be bigger and they could actually be better off. But I don’t think the one percent wants to live in gated communities; I’ve visited places where there’s a huge amount of inequality, and the quality of life of the one percent isn’t that great. They live in gated communities, there’s an unpleasantness about the nature of their society. That’s a direction to which we may be moving, if we don’t deal with the inequality we have. So I would say that, would I rather live in a society where there’s sort of a sense of community and a sense of purpose, a sense of fairness, I think it’s a much healthier community to live in. And all of us live in a community; none of us are really that isolated.

What would be some of the policies that the 2016 Democratic candidate could realistically run on to combat inequality that would excite you most?

I think I would be the most excited by a candidate that really takes seriously this issue of equality and equality of opportunity, addresses it in as many dimensions as possible, and goes beyond what I would call the minimalist agenda— more education, minimum wage— and begins to work on the most important things that will ensure that the middle class will have access to the basic ingredients that make for a middle class life. That means beginning to work on the underlying structures that are referred to the institutions that have lead to such inequality in before tax income, in market incomes. That begins to say that when we have a tax system that rewards speculators more than people who work for a living that distorts our economy. We don’t want our most talented people to go into speculation; that can lead to even more instability. We have a distorted economy, and that’s a result of the choices that we’ve made and we ought to be making different choices. We can do that! There’s not reason that capital should be taxed at a lower rate than people who work for a living.

Finally, there’s a whole agenda, I think, that could directly address some of the plight of average Americans— make it easier for people to get to jobs and public transportation, make it easier for a woman to work through support of child care or family-leave policy. Basically trying to help every member of our society participate meaningfully in our society.

Last question: You’ve previously expressed opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, but that was a few months ago. Have you heard or seen anything in the time since to make you feel more positively toward the proposal?

No, I’ve actually heard several things that have made me more adamant in my opposition. I’ve talked to the health negotiators around the world. I’ve talked to people who’ve been involved in the arbitration process as part of the investment agreements. Even people who are arbitrators say the whole system is corrupt, that it’s a very expensive system, that therefore creates an un-even playing field with big corporations with big, deep pockets can get access to have recourse, whereas smaller firms can’t. That American firms can re-locate or do their investments in the United States as a subsidiary, sue the U.S. government in ways that they could not if we didn’t have that trade agreement. In other words, what we’re doing is changing the legal structure for the United States, not only for foreign firms. Because an American firm can become an American firm overnight. So this is a very big deal.

It’s not just a trade agreement, it’s a really major change in a legal structure. And I don’t think it should be taken lightly. I don’t think it should be adopted on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, that’s associated with fast-track. I think each of these issues themselves need to be debated, voted on separately. The bottom line is, if anything, I’ve been more resolved in my opposition.

 

Elias Isquith Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith.

Chinese Developer Builds 57-Story Skyscraper In Just 19 Days (Time-Lapse Video): What will Globalization and TPP agreements do with this building technology to improve lifestyle choices of Australian workers?

j57

When imagining the timeline for constructing a skyscraper, most people probably think in terms of months or even years. But for the Chinese construction firm Broad Sustainable Building, that’s simply too long.

BSB’s newest building, a 57-story tower in Changsha, China, was erected in a mind-blowingly fast 19 days – a rate of three stories per day!

BSB Architect Xian Min Zhang released a promotional time-lapse video showing the construction of the J57 tower – check it out below! (The time-lapse itself begins at around 1:55)

The J57 is a multi-purpose building, containing 800 apartments and office space for up to 4,000 people.

According to Gizmodo, the 80,000-square-meter skyscraper was built entirely out of, “energy-efficient, factory-produced, Lego-like blocks”, making it the world’s tallest prefabricated building.

BSB also took China’s pollution problem into account when constructing the building, using quadruple-thick glass and tight “99.9% sealed” construction to keep air pollution out.

Read more from Business Insider and Gizmodo.

WARNING: Beware of Abbott’s “Free Trade” Trojan horse! Abbott sits to the Right of all PMs before him with his corporate friends Murdoch and Rinehart ISDR Investor State Dispute Resolution throws the notion of Public Interest under the bus.

Image courtesy of australiahistory.com

Does Tony have a cunning plan to do the politically impossible? asks Letitia McQuade.

Letitia continues:

Every so often someone does something so totally unfathomable, something so seemingly devoid of common sense that one is left scratching one’s head asking, “Why would anyone do that? What could they possibly hope to gain?”

While there are, to my mind, large swathes of government policy that fall into that category, few things have left me quite as perplexed as the possible inclusion of the so called ISDR provisions in any future Australian free trade agreements.

For those of you that haven’t been following this, ISDR is an acronym for “Investor State Dispute Resolution”, and in a nut shell what that would mean is that any foreign corporation (operating under an ISDR provision), that finds that our laws interfere with their business has the right to sue our governments for damages. Outrageous, right?

Want to ban GMOs? Well stuff you SA and TAS, here comes Monsanto with it’s bully boy lawyers and war chest bigger than your state budget. Hey NSW, want to legislate environmental protections to stop coal seam gas destroying the water table on your precious farm land? Not unless you’re prepared to pay out hundreds of millions in compensation, you don’t!

Since deregulation and FTAs (free trade agreements) came into play in the 80s successive Australian governments – from both sides of the house – have viewed ISDRs as categorically not in Australia’s best interests, and had the good sense to rule them out point blank.

So why has Tony put ISDRs back on the negotiating table? Especially when the US has already accepted our refusal to include them. Given that we currently have a free trade agreement with the US that appears to be working quite well without them, Abbott’s move to include them in the ongoing TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) negotiations seems like total lunacy. I mean really, it’s basic negotiation 101, you never freely offer up something (that will cost you dearly), that the other party is prepared to forgo.

This has been troubling me for weeks now. Why would Abbott do this? ISDR provisions are such a profound threat to our national sovereignty. For Tony to put them back on the table seems to defy all logic.

By all accounts Abbott is not a stupid man, so what it he up to? What is his end game for such a seemingly unfathomable act?

But then it occurred to me, Abbott is a man with an agenda, a largely corporate agenda. After all, it’s no secret where he sits politically. He has found a comfy chair to the right of Turnbull, Howard, Hewson and Fraser, and firmly planted himself at the ultra right table with his corporate buddies Rinehart, Murdoch et al (and with friends like that there can be no doubt he is headed for a VERY lucrative payday after his stint in the lodge).

Abbott has long been known for his antipathy towards any measures that “interfere” with corporate profits, whether it be a fair level of tax on mining companies, legislated environmental protection or plain packaging for cigarettes (a move he was eventually forced to support after a backbench and voter backlash). We all know there is nothing Abbott isn’t prepared to throw under the bus in the name of corporate profits . . . unless, of course, it is politically costly to him!

And this is where ISDR clauses could come in handy for him. Just when we are snuggly tucked up in our beds, feeling confident we are in safe fiscal hands, these ISDRs will crawl out from deep within the belly of our shiny new FTAs, paving the way for legions of corporate lawyers to descend on our states and territories with multi million dollar lawsuits against our public purse . . . That is of course unless the government obligingly removes the offending legislations.

Oh, now I get it! And I think it goes something like this, “the government doesn’t WANT to allow oil wells in the middle of the great barrier reef, but if we don’t do it this big bad international corp will sue us all the way to the poor house, which means cutting services, health and education etc . . . better to just amend the laws and let them put the wells in, and then we can all profit from it”.

While I realise that such a hypothetical scenario may sound a bit extreme, under an ISDR it’s not wholly impossible and it’s the only explanation I can think of that actually makes any sense?. Hmmm . . . Am I being too cynical? Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, doesn’t think so. She was quoted in Huffington Post talking on the EU-US FTA negotiations:

The dirty little secret about ISDR’s is that they are not mainly about trade, but rather target for elimination the strongest consumer, health, safety, privacy, environmental and other public interest policies. The investor-state system empowers individual corporations and investors to skirt domestic courts and laws and drag signatory governments to foreign tribunals.

Let’s face it, no government, left or right, would win the support of the people in actively advocating for the wholesale destruction of our environment in the name of corporate profit; but if our governments were faced with paying billions in damages, many of us might just be tempted to change our minds. After all, the government can’t be expected to pay out all those damages and still afford to keep all those expensive social services going, can they? They would be faced with some tough choices!

Maybe I am being a little dramatic, but a quick look at Canada’s experience with the ISDR is a quite sobering and it should be setting off alarm bells loud enough for us to hear all the way from Ottawa.

For example, Canada recently denied a patent application for a drug that failed to meet the conditions for patent under Canadian law, and this led a US pharma company to demand $100 million in compensation. Whether their claim will be upheld in court is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain, even if the Canadian Government prevails defending the case won’t come cheap.

And this is just one of many law suits Canada has had to contend with. Here are some others:

Dow AgroSciences, a U.S. corporation, served a claim for losses allegedly caused by Quebec’s ban on the sale and certain uses of lawn pesticides containing 2,4-D.

Chemtura Corporation, a US pesticide manufacturer, has alleged that through its Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), Canada wrongfully terminated its pesticide business and issued a claim.

Lone Pine Resources is currently suing Canada for over $250 million in response to Quebec’s moratorium on coal seam gas fracking.

The list goes on an on. In 2012 over 500 multi million dollar law suits where lodged globally under ISDR provisions. In fact Ecuador had to pay out $1.77 billion in a single settlement to Occidental Petroleum, as a result of having ISDR clauses in their FTA.

Be very afraid, as this article, Investor-State Dispute Resolution: The Monster Lurking Inside Free Trade Agreements warns.

And where is the media on this issue? Once again, like the faithful old dog they are, they appear to be napping at the feet of their corporate masters. Have none of them even read the Coalition’s Trade Policy? It’s all there in black and white. Quote:“The Coalition will take a pragmatic approach to trade negotiations and will consult widely with industry bodies and associations to ensure that stakeholder priorities are taken into account.This includes remaining open to utilising investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses as part of Australia’s negotiating position”.

The policy also promises to “fast track the conclusion of free trade agreements with China, South Korea, Japan, India, the Gulf Cooperation Council and Indonesia”, and to “explore the feasibility of free trade agreements with other trading partners including the European Union, Brazil, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and Taiwan”.

While it’s possible that ISDS clauses won’t wind up in all of those agreement, they will, as the policy states, form part of Australia’s negotiating position.

So why are the Coalition in such a rush to sign off all these new FTA’s? (Especially the TPP, which could easily usher in the ISDR clauses that are currently excluded in our Australian-US FTA). And why are the Coalition so hell bent on keeping the terms of these negotiations secret?

The Coalition is looking to present this new round FTAs as a shining example of their “getting down to business” and delivering good outcomes for Australia, but we need to seriously ask ourselves, do we really want Tony opening our door to ISDR clauses?

We’ll only get make this mistake once, and we may be stuck with the some very expensive consequences, forever! This is a very dangerous course for Australia to be taking. We need to keep a firm eye on this Trojan horse and slam the door hard in it’s face.

But how?

The chilling reality of the TPP : Help take the risk out of business and place it on the public. TPP is guaranteeing a future of bailouts for venture capital. Business with guarantees is an oxymoron

Image from antinuclear.net

What could the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – currently being negotiated by the Abbott Government – mean for Australia? Of concern, reports Mel Mac, is that it means our rights are being secretly traded away.

The TPP was conceived in 2003 as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP) as a path to trade liberalisation in the Asia-Pacific. The original participating countries were Chile, New Zealand and Singapore with Brunei joining in 2005. In 2008 the United States of America (USA), Australia, Peru and Vietnam joined, followed on by Malaysia, Mexico, Canada and Japan. China and Korea have expressed interest but the USA did not bring it up when President Barrack Obama last visited the Chinese President Xi-Jinping in November 2014. This was puzzling to most as the USA has made so much of the TPP and it’s nervousness about China’s growing might economically and militarily.

Free Trade Agreements (FTA) deal mostly with goods being imported at a certain price as long as certain environmental and labour standards are met. What’s different about the TPP is that the treaty has 29 chapters, dealing with the whole scope of tariff and agricultural quota removal and market access on sensitive products, but in particular agricultural goods. It also includes provisions over nontariff issues such as intellectual property rights, the environment, state-owned enterprises, and investment. Japan was the last to join in 2013, and agriculture as well as the auto industry has long been a sticking point in Japanese trade liberalisation and held up the TPP negotiations with the USA. However recent agricultural reforms by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has tipped the power of balance back into the governments favour and away from Japan’s most powerful farm lobby, the Japan Agriculture Cooperative (JA). In January this year Japan offered to import more rice from the USA while keeping existing tariffs in place, and the USA agreed to stop demanding that Japan ease its car safety standards. In early February this year, progress was made on issues such as state-owned enterprises, environmental protection, and investment. This not only paves the way for greater market liberalisation and deregulation in Japanese agriculture but enables Mr Obama’s plan to “fast track” push for Congress approval to conclude the TPP within the year.

What is of the most concern is the provisions over not only the aforementioned non-tariff issues of intellectual property rights, the environment, state-owned enterprises, and investment but the Investor State Dispute Settlements provisions (ISDS). ISDS allows multinational corporations to sue governments if they’re deemed not to be acting in their best “interests”. It can potentially place limits on governments being able to develop their domestic laws and policies in areas such as public health, patents on medicine, the environment, food labeling, Internet use and privacy and even local media content. Australia for example is currently entrenched in it’s first investor-state dispute since November 2011 with Philip Morris Asia, due to the introduction of the ‘Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011′ (TPPA). The laws were introduced by the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government, as a health measure but Philip Morris Asia amongst the many breaches, believes that it infringes their intellectual property. Previous Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Liberal National Party (LNP) governments have in the past only included ISDS in trade agreements with developing countries that don’t have investments in Australia and they weren’t included in the US-Australia FTA. American corporations are the most frequent users of ISDS and the “safeguard” clauses countries employ to protect themselves can and have been re-interpreted and over-turned through the arbitration process. Philip Morris International Inc in the Australian case for example is challenging the tobacco plain packaging legislation under the 1993 Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Hong Kong for the Promotion and Protection of Investments (Hong Kong Agreement) by using it’s Asian arm to circumnavigate them.

The former Gillard government also decided to ban the inclusion of ISDS in future trade agreements, they didn’t think that it harmed investment as did the Productivity Commission. Even where corporations do lose they have dragged governments through lengthy and expensive legal processes with dispute settlement cases being heard by tribunals of three private-sector lawyers whose decisions are beyond appeal. The tribunals tend to be more concerned with assessing potential damage to corporate investments over the protection of government or public interest. There are more than 500 of these disputes being launched globally and more than $3bn being paid by out governments, meaning taxpayers, to corporations under existing US trade and investment agreements alone.

Not only is there strategic litigation employed by corporations but there is a concept known as “regulatory chilling”, which is the alleged case with Philip Morris Asia suing Australia for example, they’re able to put pressure on other countries considering plain packaging regulations too. According to Dr Kyla Tienhaara: “The Australian government has suggested that Philip Morris is currently engaged in trying to achieve global regulatory chill through its case by basically showing other countries that might want to introduce plain packaging legislation ‘Look what we’re doing to Australia.’ This is actually working because countries are saying, ‘We’re going to wait to find out what happens with that case before we go ahead with our regulations.”

Lone Pine Resources filed a $250m lawsuit against the Canadian government when Quebec placed a moratorium in June 2011, which was expanded into 2012, banning drilling and fracking processes for oil and gas underneath the St. Lawrence River, until a strategic environmental evaluation was completed. “Based on the principle of precaution, the Quebec government’s response to the concerns of its population is appropriate and legitimate,” said Martine Châtelain, president of Eau secours! (Quebec based Coalition for a responsible management of water). “No companies should be allowed to sue a State when it implements sovereign measures to protect water and the common goods for the sake of our ecosystems and the health of our peoples,” Ms Châtelain added.

Again back in Canada, they are popular with these disputes unfortunately, is the case of Eli Lilly and Company, which is an American global pharmaceutical company (and it’s fifth biggest). They filed a $500m law suit against Canada for violating its obligations to foreign investors under the North American FTA for allowing its domestic courts to invalidate patents for two of its drugs. Canadian courts found that there was a lack of evidence supporting the drug’s alleged benefits.

According to Forbes in 2013 the biggest profit margins produced be USA corporations were in the Pharmaceuticals, Banks, Car makers, Oil and Gas makers and Media industries. In 2013, US Pharmaceutical Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, made 42% profit margin. As one industry veteran put it: “I wouldn’t be able to justify [those kinds of margins].” In the UK that year, there was widespread anger when the industry regulator predicted energy companies’ profit margins would grow from 4% to 8% for the year. Last year, five pharmaceutical companies made a profit margin of 20% or more, these were – Pfizer, Hoffmann-La Roche, AbbVie, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Eli Lilly.

The problem isn’t just with the massive amounts of seeming profiteering but the fact that the drug companies spend far more on marketing drugs, in some cases twice as much, than on developing them. Johnson & Johnson (US) total revenue for 2013 was $71.3bn with a profit of 13.8%, it only spent 8.2% on research and development, yet 17.5% was spent on sales and marketing.  Drug patents are usually awarded for 20 years, but 10-12 of those years are spent developing it at a cost of up to $2.5bn, leaving eight to ten years to make money before the formula can be taken up by generic drug companies. Once this happens, sales fall by 90%-plus. Joshua Owide, director of healthcare industry dynamics at research company GlobalData, explains, “Unlike other sectors, brand loyalty goes out the window when patents expire.” This is why pharmaceutical companies go to such extraordinary lengths to extend their patents, a process known as “evergreening”, employing “floors full of lawyers” for this express purpose, one industry insider has said. And with a drug raking in $3bn a quarter, even a one month extension can be worth a lot of money. Some drug companies, including the UK’s GSK, have been accused of more underhand tactics, such as paying generics to delay the release of their cheaper alternatives. This is a win for both industries, as it has been said that the loss of the big pharmaceuticals far outweighs the generic industries revenue.

What can all of this mean potentially for my native country Australia and more so in my current home state of New South Wales (NSW)? NSW regulations that prevent coal seam gas (CSG) recovery near residential areas could be subject to law suits if the TPP goes ahead with these murky investor-state dispute settlement provisions. If it affects their profit margin you can be assured that a law suit will eventuate as will tricks from corporate lawyers trained in this specific area. Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb has assurances of a deal being finally struck within weeks. “Mid-February to mid-March: that’ll be, I think, the timeframe,” he said. “We might have to come back again to conclude some things, but that’s the intent. The final issues, as always, are the most difficult. But everyone seems to be in a mood to find some common ground so that we can get this major, major agreement off the ground.”

The current Australian government has an appetite for signing FTAS as seeming proof of their economic prowess. The TPP has been years in the making and fraught with difficult negotiations especially in regards to the ISDS provisions that could impact on us really hard, and we have barely even touched on them. The secrecy in an Australian political environment, let alone with a disillusioned public, couldn’t come at a worse enough time. I would think now is the time for the Opposition, Independents and the Senate to come together and put the public’s interests first and put it first every time, no matter the high level of Investment interest in our country. It is apparent that the current government wants to dismantle our Medicare and even introduce a medical tax. Can you imagine what could be in store for us if we allow multinational corporations or investors with trade ministers, not governments mind you, to ultimately decide our economies, laws and policies? I will leave you with the global spend on medicines projected to be worth up to $1.2 trillion for the year 2017.

This article was first published as ‘We can not allow the TPP with no transparency & clauses to sue us‘ on Mel’s bog, Political Omniscience.

The TPP: The dirtiest, most dangerous trade deal you’ve probably never heard of: If you find out and disclose the details. ASIO & the AFP will pay you a visit.

 

The TPP: The dirtiest, most dangerous trade deal you’ve probably never heard of.

Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a Pending Disaster

Republicans who now run Congress say they want to cooperate with President Obama, and point to the administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, as the model. The only problem is the TPP would be a disaster.

If you haven’t heard much about the TPP, that’s part of the problem right there. It would be the largest trade deal in history — involving countries stretching from Chile to Japan, representing 792 million people and accounting for 40 percent of the world economy – yet it’s been devised in secret.

Lobbyists from America’s biggest corporations and Wall Street’s biggest banks have been involved but not the American public. That’s a recipe for fatter profits and bigger paychecks at the top, but not a good deal for most of us, or even for most of the rest of the world.

First some background. We used to think about trade policy as a choice between “free trade” and “protectionism.” Free trade meant opening our borders to products made elsewhere. Protectionism meant putting up tariffs and quotas to keep them out.

In the decades after World War II, America chose free trade. The idea was that each country would specialize in goods it produced best and at least cost. That way, living standards would rise here and abroad. New jobs would be created to take the place of jobs that were lost. And communism would be contained.

For three decades, free trade worked. It was a win-win-win.

But in more recent decades the choice has become far more complicated and the payoff from trade agreements more skewed to those at the top.

Tariffs are already low. Negotiations now involve such things as intellectual property, financial regulations, labor laws, and rules for health, safety, and the environment.

It’s no longer free trade versus protectionism. Big corporations and Wall Street want some of both.

They want more international protection when it comes to their intellectual property and other assets. So they’ve been seeking trade rules that secure and extend their patents, trademarks, and copyrights abroad, and protect their global franchise agreements, securities, and loans.

But they want less protection of consumers, workers, small investors, and the environment, because these interfere with their profits. So they’ve been seeking trade rules that allow them to override these protections.

Not surprisingly for a deal that’s been drafted mostly by corporate and Wall Street lobbyists, the TPP provides exactly this mix.

What’s been leaked about it so far reveals, for example, that the pharmaceutical industry gets stronger patent protections, delaying cheaper generic versions of drugs. That will be a good deal for Big Pharma but not necessarily for the inhabitants of developing nations who won’t get certain life-saving drugs at a cost they can afford.

The TPP also gives global corporations an international tribunal of private attorneys, outside any nation’s legal system, who can order compensation for any “unjust expropriation” of foreign assets.

Even better for global companies, the tribunal can order compensation for any lost profits found to result from a nation’s regulations. Philip Morris is using a similar provision against Uruguay (the provision appears in a bilateral trade treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland), claiming that Uruguay’s strong anti-smoking regulations unfairly diminish the company’s profits.

Anyone believing the TPP is good for Americans take note: The foreign subsidiaries of U.S.-based corporations could just as easily challenge any U.S. government regulation they claim unfairly diminishes their profits – say, a regulation protecting American consumers from unsafe products or unhealthy foods, investors from fraudulent securities or predatory lending, workers from unsafe working conditions, taxpayers from another bailout of Wall Street, or the environment from toxic emissions.

The administration says the trade deal will boost U.S. exports in the fast-growing Pacific basin where the United States faces growing economic competition from China. The TPP is part of Obama’s strategy to contain China’s economic and strategic prowess.

Fine. But the deal will also allow American corporations to outsource even more jobs abroad.

In other words, the TPP is a Trojan horse in a global race to the bottom, giving big corporations and Wall Street banks a way to eliminate any and all laws and regulations that get in the way of their profits.

At a time when corporate profits are at record highs and the real median wage is lower than it’s been in four decades, most Americans need protection – not from international trade but from the political power of large corporations and Wall Street.

The Trans Pacific Partnership is the wrong remedy to the wrong problem. Any way you look at it, it’s just plain wrong.

Tony Abbott and the Coalition: stand up for Australian democracy and stop the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership.

For years, there’s been talk of creating a new free trade deal that would span countries bordering the Asia-Pacific, including the US, Canada, New Zealand, as well as several countries in Latin America and Asia. The deal is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – or “TPP” for short.The TPP agenda is being driven by big business, big pharmaceuticals and big tobacco – but the impacts will affect all Australians.Between foreign corporations suing our governments over public health measures and environmental protection laws, higher pharmaceutical prices, and surveillance of Australians’ internet usage, there’s a lot for citizens to be concerned about – which is why Prime Minister Abbott and Trade Minister Robb are keeping it quiet.

What we do know from leaked parts of the agreement is terrifying. But most Australians haven’t even heard about the TPP. That’s why we need to sound the alarm now, and sound it loudly.

Can you sign the petition calling on our politicians not to sign our rights away and share the video with everyone you know?

Want to know more?

If the trade agreement includes Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions, it could mean that foreign-owned companies will have the power to sue the Australian Government for decisions that adversely impact on their investments in Australia. Worst of all, these cases would be played out in secret international courts which only corporations have access to.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is currently undergoing negotiations between 12 countries: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

This is already being seen in the case of tobacco giant Phillip Morris, which is using an ISDS provision in the Australian-Hong Kong treaty to sue the Australian Government over its plain-packaging laws. When Quebec placed a ban on dangerous fracking processes in a local river, a trade agreement similar to the TPP made it possible for a foreign-owned energy company to file a $250 million lawsuit against the Canadian government.It’s already happening in El Salvador, where a Canadian company is suing the government for $315 million in “loss of future profits” because local citizens won a hard-fought campaign against a gold mine that threatened to contaminate their water supplies.It’s happening in Argentina, where the government imposed a freeze on water and energy bills during the GFC and was sued by an international utilities company.

It’s even happening in Canada, where American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly is demanding $500 million in compensation — as well as changes to Canadian patent laws — because courts revoked two of its patents for lack of evidence around the drugs’ supposed benefits.

For more on the potential dangers of ISDS provisions, see ABC Radio National’s story here.

The treaty gives global pharmaceutical companies far-reaching power to extend their patents in order to prevent or delay the manufacture of cheaper generic medicines and curb subsidy programs that keep drugs more affordable in Australia and elsewhere. Imagine having to pay $50-$100 – or more – for a simple asthma inhaler. That’s the average cost in the US, when they currently sell for less than $10 here.

…and dob you in for possible copyright infringement. We all know piracy is illegal, but this treaty gives US companies the power to pull strings that could make heavy-handed spying, fines, internet service disconnection and even criminal charges the norm for even the most minor and potentially unintentional infringements. And what about privacy?

When Quebec placed a ban on dangerous fracking processes in a local river, a trade agreement similar to the TPP made it possible for a foreign-owned energy company to file a $250 million lawsuit against the Canadian government. We really don’t need foreign-owned mining companies bullying our government or preventing us from protecting our land.

For more information about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, click here to read the Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network’s (AFTINET) explainer.


Trans -Pacific Partnership: The agreement has not been made public or opened to public debate or scrutiny and we are a democracy.

 

Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP is a massive trade agreement between Australia the United States and a host of Pacific Rim countries Abbott is trying to introduce  with limited debate and no opportunity for amendments.

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership includes investor-state provisions that are likely to hurt poor communities and undermine environmental protections. Instead of being “fast tracked”  as is Abbott’s want, future trade agreements like the TPP—and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being negotiated between the European Union and the United States—must be subject to a full debate with public input.

Such agreements must not, at any cost, include investor-state mechanisms. Because trading away democracy to transnational corporations is not such a “free trade” after all.

From the outset, the politicians who support the agreement have overplayed its benefits and underplayed its costs. They seldom note, for example, that the pact would allow corporations to sue governments whose regulations threaten their profits in cases brought before secretive and unaccountable foreign tribunals.

Tobacco companies could sue for loss of profit due to our plain packaging laws. Pharmceutical companies  could for the introduction of generic medications.

Ten years after the approval of DR-CAFTA, in Central America we are seeing many of the effects they cautioned about. As a consequence Americas immigration problems have expanded.

One of the most pernicious features of the agreement is a provision called the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism. This allows private corporations to sue governments over alleged violations of a long list of so-called “investor protections.”

The most controversial cases have involved public interest laws and regulations that corporations claim reduce the value of their investments. That means corporations can sue those countries for profits they say they would have made had those regulations not been put into effect.They can also prevent governments from making democratically accountable decisions in the first place, pushing them to prioritize the interests of transnational corporations over the needs of their citizens just what mining companies would like to access Indiginious land.

In Guatemala TECO wanted to charge higher electricity rates to Guatemalan users than those the state deemed fair. Guatemala had to pay $21.1 million in compensatory damages and $7.5 million in legal fees, above and beyond what it spent on its own defense.

What’s at stake here is not only the cost of lawsuits or the impact of environmental destruction, but also the ability of a country to make sovereign decisions and advance the public good.

More recently in Guatemala, the communities around San Jose del Golfo—about 45,000 people—have engaged in two years of peaceful resistance to prevent the US-based Kappes, Cassiday, and Associates from constructing a new mine. Protesters estimate that 95 percent of families in the region depend on agriculture, an industry that would be virtually destroyed if the water were to be further contaminated. But the company threatened to sue Guatemala if the mine was not opened. “They can’t afford this lawsuit,” a company representative said. “We had a big law group out of [Washington] DC fire off a letter to the mines minister, copied to the president, explaining what we were doing.”

On May 23, the people of San Jose del Golfo were violently evicted from their lands by military force, pitting the government in league with the company against its own people—potentially all to avoid a costly lawsuit.