Reality Check: What We Know About TPP Makes It the Worst Trade Deal Ever

Right here in Atlanta, a dozen Pacific nations along with the United States have finalized a massive trade agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership. But is the TPP literally the worst trade deal in the world?

This is a Reality Check you won’t see anywhere else.


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Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, like President Barack Obama, is a big supporter of the TPP. The mayor told Sharon Reed that what is really important about the TPP is beating China to other Asian-Pacific countries.

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“It really is essential that we beat China into a relationship with these Asian-Pacific countries and that the United States the rules of the road and the terms of the engagement and we have an important ally in Japan and that we send a message about who they want to place their global future,” Reed said.

Is that the case?

The truth is that defining what the TPP actually is, is very, very difficult. Why? Because the text of the agreement is super secret.

Seriously—it is so secret that not even all members of Congress have been allowed to read it. Even weirder, those who have been allowed to read it must do so in a secret room in the basement of the Capitol building. Seriously.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t know anything about the TPP. And the bits that we do know about it reveal that this really isn’t a trade deal.

Take, for instance, the latest meeting over the TPP with world leaders who met here in Atlanta. What were they discussing?

The United States argued for longer protections for exclusivity for prescription drugs. The U.S. delegation was arguing that the trade agreement should expand globally at a 12-year exclusivity period for drugs that treat diseases like cancer.

Australia, which only allows five years of exclusivity, and five other delegations argued against it, saying that would keep life-saving medicines from patients who cannot afford them.

Doctors Without Borders came out against this stating:

“TPP countries have agreed to United States government and multinational drug company demands that will raise the price of medicines for millions. . . . The big losers in TPP are patients and treatment providers in developing countries. . . . The TPP will still go down in history as the worst trade agreement for access to medicines in developing countries.”

That’s not very encouraging. What else do we know about the TPP? Well, it is not just an agreement extending monopolies for drug companies. It is also an agreement that creates massive copyright protections.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation says that, “Despite its earlier promises that the TPP would bring ‘greater balance’ to copyright, more than any other recent trade agreement, the most recent leak of the intellectual property chapter belies their claims. The U.S. Trade Representative [Michael Froman] (USTR) has still failed to live up to its word that it would enshrine meaningful public rights to use copyrighted content in this agreement.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said otherwise: “…It will create jobs. The net result for the United States is that it will grow our economy and strengthen America’s position in the world.”

But that’s not actually true, according to the Washington Post who gave Kerry four “Pinocchios” for that statement.

The claim that the TPP would create jobs does not take into account income gains and changing wages. According to the government’s own sources, imports and exports would increase by the same amount, resulting in a net number of zero new jobs.

A trade agreement that creates no jobs sounds like NAFTA (North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement). A trade agreement that creates greater global monopolies on medicine, and one that creates more enforcement of copyright and intellectual property, would make it much worse than NAFTA.

President Obama must wait at least 90 days after notifying congress of the deal before he can sign it and sent it to Capitol Hill, and the full text of the agreement must be made public for at least 60 of those days. We’ll learn more then.

But what you need to know is that the worst thing about the TPP is something called the ISDS—the Investor-State Dispute Settlement.

Under the ISDS, foreign corporations would be allowed to appeal legal decisions to international tribunals rather than face domestic courts.


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