Both Parties Blast Secret ‘Job Killing’ Obama Trade Deal
In a rare show of bipartisanship, separate coalitions of Congressional Republicans and Democrats released statements chiding President Obama’s push to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement by the year’s end. Critics on both sides cited concerns over the secrecy of the negotiations, internet freedom, consumer protections, and the economic impact of the deal.
Much of the early criticism of the pending trade deal was the secrecy that surrounded it. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office had denied even the highest ranking Democratic Senators access to any draft documents which drew ire from the left and right. Many congressional leaders came forward in protest when discovering that several dozen corporate leaders were allowed to take part in the negotiations while political representatives were not.
This week, a secret draft copy was leaked to WikiLeaks and confirmed many of the concerns critics had. In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, intellectual property law expert Rimmer said “One could see the TPP as a Christmas wish-list for major corporations, and the copyright parts of the text support such a view.”
Both conservatives and progressives took issue with a part of the deal that was allow corporations to challenge regulations in an international court, essentially granting them political power over sovereign states. Corporations like ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical have used NAFTA, a similar trade deal, to challenge Canadian regulations on oil drilling, fracking, and drug patents.
Meanwhile, union leaders came forward to cite worries that the deal would simply encourage companies to further move jobs to pacific nations with weak oversight.
Much of the negotiations have dealt with intellectual property law. The deal would give pharmaceutical companies extensive patent protections that would prevent cheaper generic medicine from being accessible to sick people in the poorest parts of the world. PBS newsman Bill Moyers writes “The gap between free trade and the agenda of the TPP is clearest in the case of prescription drugs. The US drug companies have a major seat at the negotiating table. They will be trying to craft rules that increase the strength of patent and related protections. The explicit purpose is to raise (as in not lower) the price of drugs in the countries signing the TPP.”