The lack of transparency in TPPA negotiation process makes a mockery of Obama’s avowed commitment to open government.
By Dr Kua Kia Soong (FMT)
26 April, 2014.
The main purpose of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Malaysia is to try and speed the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) that is so critical to US capitalism in its effort to check the growth of China’s trade relations in the region.
The fact that the contents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are kept under such tight wraps should make us suspicious of its impact on our lives.
Even members of the Congress are not privy to the text of the draft agreement. This is because the agreement is more than just a trade deal; it also imposes parameters on non-trade policies and even US laws must be altered to conform with these new terms, or trade sanctions can be imposed against American exports.
The agreement, under negotiation since 2008, set new rules for everything from food safety and financial markets to medicine prices and Internet freedom, requiring countries to maintain compatible regulatory regimes; facilitate corporate financial transactions; establish copyright and patent protections to govern intellectual property rights and to safeguard foreign investors.
True to US capitalism, only a privileged class of trade “advisers,” dominated by representatives of big businesses, enjoy access to draft texts and negotiators.
Under the agreement, pharmaceutical companies, which are among those enjoying access to negotiators as “advisers,” could challenge measures to make generic drugs economical by claiming that they undermined their new rights granted by the deal.
The agreement would also water down regulations put in place after the 2008 financial crisis and it would practically forbid bans on risky financial products, including the toxic derivatives that contributed to the crisis in the first place.
The reason the TPPA negotiations are wrapped in secrecy is because Obama wants the agreement to be given fast-track treatment before Congress votes on it. The eventual vote in Congress will be short and swift by all accounts.
Secrecy and good governance
The secrecy of the TPPA negotiation process represents an affront to the principles and practice of democratic governance.
This lack of transparency makes a mockery of Obama’s avowed commitment to open government.
Leaked versions of the TPPA suggest that the United States is promoting Internet policies that Congress specifically rejected in January 2012, when the House killed the Stop Online Piracy Act.
Another leaked draft shows that there is no enforcement of environmental provisions since there are many caveats that effectively allow countries to circumvent these regulations.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has warned that the TPPA presents “grave risks” and it “serves the interests of the wealthiest.”
Organised labour in the United States argues that the trade deal would largely benefit big business at the expense of workers in the manufacturing and service industries.
Noam Chomsky has also warned that the TPPA is “designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity.”
Suaram calls on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to put the interests of Malaysians first and to reject Obama’s covert TPPA operations.
Respect ZOPFAN and NAM
In recent years, the US under President Obama has been responsible for carrying out extra-judicial drone attacks against its perceived enemies in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Many casualties in these drone attacks have been civilians. There is no justification for such assassination attempts under international law; all they do is simply provoke revenge in these countries and to turn more people into so-called terrorists.
We call on Prime Minister Najib to convey to the US president our strongest protest against such flagrant incursions against the sovereignty of nations and to halt this US campaign of terror which has not stopped since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
During Obama’s visit to Malaysia, we hope Najib will convey to the US government in no uncertain terms, Malaysia’s commitment to the principles of the Non-Alignment Movement and that the US should respect Asean’s Zone of Peace, Friendship and Neutrality.
In other words, we call on the US to lay off Southeast Asia in its attempts to impose US hegemony in the region.
Dr Kua Kia Soong is a Suaram advisor.