The Trans Pacific Partnership is a free trade agreement currently being negotiated ( 14th round, 9th – 15 September 2012) between United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam but is open for others to join. The TPP is poised to become the largest free trade agreement in the world, potentially impacting jobs, wages, agriculture, migration, the environment, consumer safety, financial regulations, Internet protocols, government procurement and more.

But there is a more sinister side to the TPP which in actuality it is a long-dreamed-of template for implementing a binding system of global corporate governance as bold as anything the world’s wealthiest elite has attempted before. Of the 26 chapters under negotiation, only a few have to do directly with trade. The other chapters enshrine new rights and privileges for major corporations while weakening the power of nation states to oppose them. The TPP essentially proposes to establish a parallel system of justice where companies can sue countries in a tribunal of judges composed of unaccountable international trade lawyers with little to no process for appeal.
This wild bastardization of the concept of justice endangers everything from affordable medicines, internet freedoms and intellectual property rights to democratically enacted labor laws and environmental protections. And that’s not to mention the massive outsourcing of middle class jobs from the US to countries like Vietnam and Brunei.

Gordon Campbell a columnist with scoop.co.nz went on to say

Thanks to a process conducted entirely behind closed doors, New Zealand seems about to sign up to a document that will allow foreign investors to sue us before overseas tribunals if this government ever tried – or any future New Zealand government ever tried – to pass laws to protect our health, safety or the environment, but which happened to cause foreign investors to lose money. Such “investor state” dispute resolution panels are very cosy affairs. They do things judges would never be allowed to do. As pointed out below, such panels are commonly comprised of trade lawyers who sometimes serve as the arbitrators, and sometimes as the advocates for the claimants engaged in suing governments.

Campbell criticized  New Zealand’s Trade Minister Tim Groser negotiations:

Well, Groser does have a reputation for competence in trade matters, but it is largely a self–reported one. In effect, what he and his Cabinet colleagues are asking for is a blank cheque. There is utterly no transparency to the TPP negotiation process. Thus, the Key government is expecting the public to sign away significant sovereign rights, in the hope of securing a potential trade bonanza downstream – but the entire process is being carried out in a total information blackout, to the point where the first official insight the public will get about the TPP details will be well after Groser has signed up the current New Zealand government, and committed future generations to its terms. Oh, but rest assured it will all be “well designed.”

So serious is this trade agreement that a number of US law professors wrote a letter to Ambassador Ron Kirk, Office of the United States Trade Representative.

Reviews also show that the US proposal is manifestly unbalanced  – it predominantly proposes increases in proprietor rights, with no effort to expand the limitations and exceptions to such rights that  are needed in the US and abroad to serve the public interest. Yet, we only know these things because the highly secretive law making process USTR established, including a ban on the release of all negotiation proposals until four years AFTER the conclusion of the agreement, has failed to prevent the US proposals from leaking to the public.

The unbalanced product results from an unbalanced process. The only private individuals in the US who have ongoing access to the US proposals on intellectual property matters are on an Industry Trade Advisory Committee (ITAC) which is dominated by brand name pharmaceutical manufacturers and the Hollywood entertainment industry. There is no representation on this committee for consumers, libraries, students, health advocacy or patient groups, or others users of intellectual property, and minimal representation of other affected businesses, such as generic drug manufacturers or internet service providers. We would never create US law or regulation through such a biased and closed process.

Sources: Office of the United States Trade Representativecitizenstrade.org, scoop.co.nz,  Open letter from Law Professors

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