BY Fraser Tennant
Since its signing in Auckland, New Zealand just a few days ago, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement – a free trade agreement designed to liberalise trade and investment – has been the recipient of much fanfare as well as ferocious criticism.
As the largest regional trade accord in history (40 percent of global GDP ($107.5 trillion) and a market of 800 million people), the TPP has been styled as an ambitious, comprehensive, high standard and balanced agreement’ that will lower trade barriers, establish a common IP framework and introduce an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism.
Upon signing the agreement, the 12 Pacific Rim signatories (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam) reiterated that the goal of the TPP was “to enhance shared prosperity, create jobs and promote sustainable economic development for all of our nations".
However, critics of the TPP have never been far away and many have criticised the lack of transparency surrounding how the negotiations were conducted as well as the imbalance in the influence of the nations involved – the US and Japan having much greater trading power than the other TPP nations.
A campaign organised by the Citizens Trade Campaign has urged Congress to oppose the trade agreement. In a letter sent to supporters following the signing of the TPP, Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, said: “As you would expect from a deal negotiated behind closed doors with hundreds of corporate advisors, while the public and the press were shut out, the TPP would reward a handful of well-connected elites at the expense of our economy, environment and public health.
“The TPP would roll back environmental enforcement provisions found in all US trade agreements since the George W. Bush administration, requiring enforcement of only one out of the seven environmental treaties covered by Bush-era trade agreements. The TPP would also provide corporations with new tools for attacking environmental and consumer protections, while simultaneously increasing the export of climate-disrupting fossil fuels.
“We can’t afford a trade deal that threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink and the future we leave for our children and grandchildren.”
Further criticism came from the US-based global climate campaign 350.org which called the TPP “a toxic deal that would give dangerous new powers and pose a serious harm to the climate".
The next stage of the TPP is for the 12 countries involved to complete the domestic processes that are required to ratify the agreement.