Tuesday, February 25, 2014

TPP: Who Benefits? By Erick San Juan

 TPP: Who Benefits? By Erick San Juan

After the meeting of Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministers in Singapore in December 2013, the parties have not advanced significantly in working out the agreement on TPP. The US delegation doesn’t seem or intend to make concessions while many countries participating in negotiations like Malaysia and Vietnam are going to be firm in their positions on a set of fundamental issues most of which have rather socio-political than economic meaning.

The parties concerned have not managed to break a deadlock on several disputed issues. Among these are : 1) the US has not agreed to open sugar and milk markets to their partners and it actually undermines the idea of comprehensiveness of TPP. 2) A number of problems associated with getting access to goods markets remain unresolved. For example, if Malaysia provides zero export duty on palm oil, as it is demanded by the US, it will result in its national budget loss around $600 million. And the US refuses to discuss a possibility of any exceptions. 3) There are no rules agreed for producing goods. 4) There are no regulations agreed for state-owned companies. 5) Negotiations on drug patents and drug pricing are hardly progressing. 6) Controversial issue was proposed by the US scheme of settlement of investment disputes which gives a company the right to claim government’s compensation for its loss profit caused by the government agencies action. 7) A number of problems are connected to Japan’s accession to TPP. There is still no bilateral cars and other manufactured products trade treaty signed between the US and Japan. And even the US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg is not impressed with the Philippines entry to TPP.

US Congress is dissatisfied with the fact that only a few negotiators and registered corporate lobbyists have direct access to the text of the agreement to be worked out while US representatives can only get second-hand information regarding the issue. This has forced 150 members from the US Congress to declare their refusal to ensure the White House Trade Promotion Authority. And if the Authority is ensured, the White House in turn will have its own obligation to the majority of Democrats and part of the Republicans.

These conditions will narrow the opportunity for the Obama Administration’s domestic political maneuver. But not ensuring the authority will give rise to necessity of detailed discussion in the US Congress of each of the 29 chapters of the agreement. This could postpone the ratification of the treaty indefinitely.

In such situation, one can’t exclude some ASEAN countries and Japan will continue to stubbornly defend their national interests. Some of them like Malaysia are considering the option of output from the negotiations on TPP in 2014. The US aspires to end the talks before summer because of the Congressional elections that will be held in November. That is why in the near future, the US will intensify its efforts to achieve its goals by all means. And one shouldn’t expect any exceptions for ASEAN countries.

In such conditions, the countries that have doubts about whether to accede to TPP treaty or not should postpone making a final decision until the post-election period in the US to look closely into the advantages and disadvantages of future agreements.

Remember when the US government announced its ‘pivot to Asia’, the major element in this strategy is the TPP. A good copy for the big brother’s intrusion in the lives of sovereign states in the region. The mere fact that history of alliances and coalition among nations all boils down to economics under the umbrella of security through military partnership, the strategy for military modernization of small nations is actually under the auspices of economic survival, not for the small nations but for the big nation’s military-industrial-complex and similar corporations.

The bottomline is, who will benefit in such partnership like the TPP when right from the start secrecy is the name of the game. It is good that when 'wikileaks' exposed the true picture that shrouds the TPP, nations took a second look of the said agreement. It is only through transparency and honest to goodness partnership can nations be willing to bring their whole citizenry into such undertaking. As for us Filipinos, the talk over changing the constitution in its economic provisions and the law on the use of the internet are all heading towards the possible integration of the country in this economic farce that will shortchange us in the process.

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