TPP signed, the battle continues

04 February 2016 1:57 pm

So the big news today is that that the contentious Trans Pacific Partnership has been signed in Auckland. While protesters took to the streets, the ceremony went ahead unimpeded.

In the lead up to the signing, the United Nations called on Governments not to sign the TPP without reaffirming their human rights treaty obligations and their recent pledges to achieve Sustainable Development Goals

Of course, that’s a crock. There are some things the TPP does not seek to address. Like for example climate change and human rights. It’s like saying Obamacare doesn’t cure cancer.

There are two big concerns about the TPP.

One is the secrecy of the negotiations, and the other is investor-state dispute settlement rules.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, the way negotiations were done behind closed doors without any public input created an agreement that allows foreign corporations to sue countries for laws or regulations that promote the public interest if it hurts their profits. It also contains copyright measures far more restrictive than what's now required by international treaties. None of this would have occurred if the process developing the TPP had been more transparent.

But of course, the battle isn’t over yet. Now the signatories have to go through a formal ratification process in their national legislatures in order to legally enforce the provisions in the trade deal.

And that's where the problems are. It won't get universal approval. For example, the new government of Canada says it’s not yet prepared to endorse the deal although it’s happy to sit at the table. In the US, senators like Elizabeth Warren, Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid are worried about the provisions and they’re particularly concerned that Congress won’t be able to tackle any of the provisions it doesn’t like. Chances are the TPP won’t be passed in the US, if at all, until after the presidential election.

What’s been lacking from the process is public input. And what’s really needed now is some serious cost benefit analysis of the TPP by some independent international body. And that’s been lacking. Until we get that, there's no guarantee the signatory nations will get it through their legislatures. And neither should they.