April 23, 2014
MARTIN KHOR, mkhor at igc.org, @South_Centre
Khor is the executive director of South Centre. He writes the column “Global Trends” for the Daily Star. Two of his recent columns are “Obama and the TPPA” and “Obama’s Visit and the TPPA” in which he writes, “Of concern is that the Congress will only pass the TPPA [Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement] if it has a clause disciplining countries that are ‘currency manipulators.’ …
“A major problem with this Congress’ proposal is how ‘currency manipulators’ are defined. Many developing countries consider the U.S. itself to be a manipulator because the trillions of dollars it has placed in the banking system through its easy-money policy has depressed the value of the dollar to remain at low levels and raised the country’s export competitiveness.
“But that’s not how the Americans define manipulation. Fred Bergsten of the Peterson Institute, a main intellectual force behind the Congress move, proposes three tests to determine a currency manipulator: the country possess excessive official foreign currency assets (more than six months of import value); it has acquired significant additional amounts of official foreign assets, implying substantial intervention, over a recent period of six months; and it has a substantial current account surplus. …
“Bergsten’s ideas are extreme, but they [were] cited by Congressman [Sander] Levin when he made his proposal.
“Can the TPPA countries agree to having a currency manipulation chapter in the agreement? If so, the TPPA will contain a very dangerous element and it will also set a dangerous precedent for other future agreements.”
LORI WALLACH, lwallach at citizen.org, @PCGTW
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. The organization released a statement to reporters covering Obama’s trip to Asia which reads, “Obama arrives in Asia without trade authority and with TPP partners Japan and Malaysia aware that the U.S Congress, which has exclusive constitutional authority over trade policy, is increasingly skeptical about the TPP. January 2014 legislation to enact Fast Track authority was dead on arrival in the U.S. House of Representatives. Already in late 2013,180 House members had announced they would never authorize the Fast Track process again; more announced opposition when the bill was submitted. …
“The TPP’s actual terms undercut the false, but conveniently scary, dichotomy posed as a choice between using TPP to impose ‘our’ rules internationally or living with rules set by China. This argument presumes the TPP to represent ‘our’ rules, but in fact many of the TPP’s terms reflect the narrow special interests of the 600 official U.S. corporate trade advisors that have shaped them. TPP investment rules would promote more U.S. job offshoring and further gut the U.S. manufacturing base that is essential for our national security and domestic infrastructure. TPP procurement rules would ban Buy American policies that reinvest our tax dollars to create economic growth and jobs at home. TPP service sector rules would raise our energy prices and undermine our energy independence and financial stability. TPP drug and copyright terms would raise health care costs and thwart innovation.”
FIFA RAHMAN, fifarahman at hotmail.com, @fifarahman
Rahman is policy manager at the Malaysian AIDS Council. She said today, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a plurilateral trade agreement involving 12 countries, which among other things contains TRIPS+ [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] provisions that will reduce access to affordable medicines. In Guatemala, for example, it was found that TRIPS+ had resulted in a large variance in prices of similar medications, and that several lower-cost generic medicines had been removed entirely from the market. In Jordan, it was found that the delay in entry of generics due to TRIPS+ provisions in their Jordan-U.S. free trade agreement had resulted in the government paying an extra USD$18 million per year. …
“In the second half of last year, Malaysia (along with three other countries) was offered a differential treatment package based on income status. This means that Malaysia will be exempted from the TRIPS+ provisions until it reaches high GNI per capita status.
“The major myth is that the differential treatment given to Malaysia on intellectual property based on income level makes it a better deal. Despite Malaysia approaching high GNI per capita, in reality the rich-poor disparity is one of the highest in Southeast Asia so people will not be able to afford medications.”
MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @MFlowers8
KEVIN ZEESE, kbzeese at gmail.com, @KBZeese
Flowers served as congressional fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program. Zeese, a lawyer, is an organizer with PopularResistance.org and its campaign Flush the TPP. Flowers and Zeese are now co-directors of It’s Our Economy and co-hosts of “Clearing the FOG” on WeActRadio. They wrote the piece, “Senator Wyden Starts Round II As He Pushes TPP Fast Track” in which they wrote, “China may actually have a better economic plan than the US, judging by the last decade of economic performance. Maybe the US should reconsider its neoliberal approach of corporate welfare for big business and treating social services as profit centers for Wall Street. For example, there is no question that turning health care into a commodity, with massive subsidies to the insurance industry and for pharmaceutical research, is the most expensive and least efficient approach to providing health care. There is no doubt that simply improving and expanding Medicare to everyone would have provided better quality health care to all Americans. But that would difficult to achieve under an agreement such as the TPP.
“What if China is right that some state owned enterprises, especially for public services, is the better approach? The evidence supports that approach for health care. Why should Wyden be pushing a trade agreement that will destroy excellent ‘state owned’ health care systems as in Japan, Australia and New Zealand and force the failed model of corporate healthcare on nations?”