Leaked IP text & US Congress revolts against Fast Track
Yet another leaked text of the intellectual property chapter was posted on Wikileaks today, dating from the end of the Brunei round in August. It includes the positions of all 12 countries and reveals a massive gulf between US demands and a bloc of other countries, including New Zealand. The US still has place-savers for several highly controversial further demands, notably on biologic products, which involve genes and living cells.
Analyses of the text are available from KeiOnline and Public Citizen Access to Medicines.
‘As we have consistently said, the obsessive secrecy surrounding these negotiations makes leaks inevitable. It is in the national interest, and the interests of democracy, for the parties to release the draft texts of all the chapters now to allow informed analysis, democratic input and assessment of the risks’, said Professor Kelsey.
In a second, stunning blow to the TPPA negotiations, 151 of the 201 Democrat members of the US House of Representatives today released a letter to the President that formally declared their opposition to giving him “fast track authority’. Others may follow.
The letter states ‘we will oppose “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority or any other mechanism delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative states of trade agreements and throughout negotiating and approval processes.’
Fast track, otherwise known as Trade Promotion Authority, would require Congress to accept the final TPPA deal or reject it, in toto, and not to cherry pick the parts they want and block what they do not like. No major deal has gone through Congress in recent decades without fast track.
The Democrats’ pledge means Obama would have to rely on Republicans, with whom he has been consistently at war over, most recently on the debt ceiling. Earlier this week 22 Republicans signed a similar pledge.
According to the New York Times yesterday, “Other members have signaled their opposition independently, meaning that roughly 40 percent to 50 percent of House members have signaled, sight unseen, that they do not support the regional trade pact.”
The TPPA parties want to conclude a deal by the end of 2013. Even if Congress was willing, there is no chance of fast track being approved this year. The House of Representatives has only 15 sitting days left for 2013 before they go on a month-long New Year break.
‘In a sane world, this declaration from members of Congress would see the chief negotiators abandon their planned summit in Salt Lake City next week’, said Professor Kelsey.
‘Their goal is to prepare the platform for Trade Ministers to engage in serious horse-trading in Singapore from 7-9 December’.
But Professor Kelsey warns that ‘without fast track, Obama can’t deliver on any political trade-offs. For New Zealand, and other governments, to proceed in that context is playing Russian roulette with our futures’.
The attached memorandum provides further information.
The largest margin by which any recent US President got fast track through the House was 27 votes. One passed by two votes and one failed. Opposition spanned party lines.
President Obama first said he wanted Congress to give him Fast Track during State of the Nation address in February 2013. Eight months later he still has not introduced a bill.
A bipartisan team of four senior members from the Finance and Ways and Means committees have been working on the draft bill for months, but have not yet agreed.
The toxic battle over the debt ceiling in October will resume in February 2014.
The Tea Party has already launched its anti-fast track campaign, and opposes the Trade Adjustment Assistance programme that provides extended unemployment benefits and job retraining to US workers who lose their jobs to trade.
There is a backlash among members of Congress against unprecedented limits on their access to the negotiating process and draft text (although they still have more access than any New Zealand MPs have.)
Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years. Their priorities, often linked to campaign funds, range across dairy, tobacco, pharmaceutical monopolies, mining, environment, offshoring of jobs, food safety, and re-regulating the finance industry. All are key areas in the TPPA negotiations.