Kuwait News Agency
Kuwait News Agency

Pressure mounts on TPP negotiators to finalise a pact before November’s US elections. But many countries are far from happy with aspects of the secret agreement, reports say.

TPP ministers gather: protest planned

A report from the Kuwaiti News Agency of all places has tipped that the TPP – the world’s most controversial pact – will be the subject of new talks in late February 2014.

Meanwhile, the first TPP protest of 2014 in the national capital will occur on Tuesday 11 February at Parliament House in Canberra from 11 am, as parliament sits for the first time this year. Civil Liberties Australia is one of the co-organisers of the protest. Details in ‘Upcoming Events’ at right below.

In foreshadowing new talks, the KUNA agency  was quoting the Japanese Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari.

They quoted Amari as saying that the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries are likely to hold the next ministerial talks late in February; he described it as “a crucial meeting”.

The meetings have all become “crucial” because there is major discord within the secret, select group that is trying to conclude a deal after nearly a decade of full-time negotiating.

The major problem is that the nations involved have refused to make any draft text public: only leaks have filtered out, and some of what is in the public arena is alarming for civil liberties and human rights people.

“There is no confirmation yet, but we are in preparation for holding the next gathering later in February. The upcoming meeting is very important, as it will be held before US mid-term congressional elections in November,” Amari is reported as saying. He is Japan’s minister in charge of the TPP free trade talks.

The nations taking part in the US-led TPP talks are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

“All TPP countries should have strong determination to conclude the negotiations, instead of considering it as another stage in the process,” Amari said.

US President Barack Obama’s administration aims to get Congressional approval for the TPP agreement before the mid-term elections, which are expected to preoccupy the country’s politicians from about now until voting day in early November.

The 13 countries have not reached an agreement, due to strong discord on such issues as tariff rules, intellectual property rights and reform of government-owned companies, some negotiators say.

Civil liberties and human rights people believe there are fundamental problems with copyright, patent protection (particularly over generic medicines), threats to internet freedom, lack of worker and environmental protections…and transfer of rights from citizens to multinational corporations.

One clause would give corporations the right to sue national governments if the corporations were disadvantaged by parliamentary decisions on social issues: for example, a tobacco company could sue if it didn’t like plain packaging laws brought in by Australia.

Such a legal challenge to Australia by Phillip Morris is already under way because of a similar clause in a Free Trade Agreement between Hong Kong and Australia. The TPP may let big US and Japanese corporations dictate to the Australian Parliament what Australian social policy should be. http://tinyurl.com/nxh3g89

 

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