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Secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership Revealed

The Trans-Pacific Partnership sounds like a conspiracy theory. The TPP talks about a trade deal that will govern 40 percent of U.S. imports and exports as well as affect copyrights, pharmaceuticals and more. The talks are being conducted in secret, and only a few portions of the agreement and memos about it have been leaked. Congressman Peter DeFazio says he vehemently opposes the TPP.

The TPP is being negotiated between the U.S., Canada and about 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region including Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. It does not currently include China, but DeFazio says that could change. The TPP has been under negotiation for nearly a decade, but is only now coming close to being voted on by Congress. An end of the year deadline for a final version of the TPP has passed.

Despite the fact that Congress will vote on the deal, DeFazio says the TPP secrecy extends even to Senate and House members. He says in order to view what’s in the TPP document he would have to make a special appointment, with no staff present, not take notes and then not talk about what he saw. He says he did not look at the document and instead has reviewed the leaked portions. According to memos about the TPP leaked in December, the agreement would give new political powers to corporations, increase the cost of prescription medications and restrict bank regulation. It would possibly outlaw his proposed Wall Street transaction tax, DeFazio says.

A chapter of the TPP on intellectual property released by WikiLeaks in November, shortly before the TPP talks in Salt Lake City, contained wording that according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “carries draconian copyright enforcement provisions that threaten users’ rights and could stifle innovation well into the 21st century.” DeFazio says that it looks like the TPP could make much-needed pharmaceuticals more expensive for developing countries.

The secrecy about TPP is allowed because under presidential authority such agreements that are said to possibly affect national security can be made classified, DeFazio says. However, he says that one power that President Barack Obama does not currently have is the “fast-track” authority that former President Bill Clinton had when NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was put in place. Fast-track authority means Congress would have an up-or-down vote, and it forbids amendments. “It doesn’t matter who is president or what they said as candidates, once they become president they start saying free trade agreements will benefit Americans, and time and time again it does not,” DeFazio says.

According to the Sierra Club, the TPP would give “corporations the right to sue a government for unlimited cash compensation — in private and not-transparent tribunals — over any law or regulation that a corporation argues is hurting its expected future profits,” and allow attacks on environmental laws.

DeFazio and others call the TPP “NAFTA on steroids.” DeFazio voted against NAFTA, which he says cost the U.S. thousands of jobs. The congressman says an “unholy alliance” of Democrats, Tea Party Republicans and “Republicans who actually care about the economy” could make sure the TPP does not get fast tracked in Congress.

DeFazio says the TPP is “informed and manipulated by corporate interests” and if the public knew what was in the classified document, they wouldn’t like it.

— Camilla Mortensen