Obama Faces Backlash Over New Corporate Powers In Secret Trade Deal

by Zach Carter, Huffington Post, 12/8/13, regarding Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations

…One of the most controversial provisions in the talks includes new corporate empowerment language insisted upon by the U.S. government, which would allow foreign companies to challenge laws or regulations in a privately run international court. Under World Trade Organization treaties, this political power to contest government law is reserved for sovereign nations. The U.S. has endorsed some corporate political powers in prior trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the scope of what laws can be challenged appears to be much broader in TPP negotiations.

“The United States, as in previous rounds, has shown no flexibility on its proposal, being one of the most significant barriers to closing the chapter, since under the concept of Investment Agreement nearly all significant contracts that can be made between a state and a foreign investor are included,” the memo reads. “Only the U.S. and Japan support the proposal.”

Under NAFTA, companies including Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical and Eli Lilly have attempted to overrule Canadian regulations on offshore oil drilling, fracking, pesticides, drug patents and other issues. Companies could challenge an even broader array of rules under the TPP language.

New standards concerning access to key medicines appear to be equally problematic for many nations. The Obama administration is insisting on mandating new intellectual property rules in the treaty that would grant pharmaceutical companies long-term monopolies on new medications. As a result, companies can charge high prices without regard to competition from generic providers. The result, public health experts have warned, would be higher prices around the world, and lack of access to life-saving drugs in poor countries. Nearly every intellectual property issue in the November chart is opposed by a broad majority of the 12 nations. The December memo describes 119 “outstanding issues” that remain unresolved between the nations on intellectual property matters. The deal would obligate nations to develop many standards similar to those in the United States, where domestic prescription drug prices are much higher than costs in other nations.

Also according to the December memo, the U.S. has reintroduced a proposal that would hamper government health services from negotiating lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. The proposal appears to have been universally rejected earlier in the talks, according to the memo. …

read the full post at Huffington Post

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