The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive trade agreement between several countries, has had one of its chapters leak. One of the major concerns that arose from this leak is that the TPP threatens to re-write large portions of American law.
If you ever needed any evidence that the TPP was way more than just a complete redesign of copyright law, this was certainly one leak worth checking out. Public Citizen apparently got their hands on the investment chapter of TPP. We are aware of the copyright chapter leak, and now this chapter leaks. This is apparently the 12th chapter which should tell you how much is being covered. We’re not sure what is contained in the other 10 chapters or if there are even more chapters after this. In any event, this chapter has raised alarm bells by those publishing the document:
“The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of TPP negotiations,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Via closed-door negotiations, U.S. officials are rewriting swaths of U.S. law that have nothing to do with trade and in a move that will infuriate left and right alike have agreed to submit the U.S. government to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals that can order unlimited payments of our tax dollars to foreign corporations that don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms do.”
Although the TPP has been branded a “trade” agreement, the leaked text of the pact’s Investment Chapter shows that the TPP would:
- limit how U.S. federal and state officials could regulate foreign firms operating within U.S. boundaries, with requirements to provide them greater rights than domestic firms;
- extend the incentives for U.S. firms to offshore investment and jobs to lower-wage countries;
- establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign firms new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges; and
- allow foreign firms to demand compensation for the costs of complying with U.S. financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms.
The leak also reveals that:
- Australia has refused to submit to the jurisdiction of the “investor-state” private corporate enforcement foreign tribunal system;
- U.S. negotiators are alone in seeking to expand this extra-judicial enforcement system to allow the use of foreign tribunals to enforce contracts that foreign investors may have with a government for government procurement or to operate utilities contracts and even related to concessions for natural resources on federal lands;
- Other countries are proposing safeguards for financial regulation and limits to the corporate tribunals that the U.S. has not supported.
We took a look through this chapter looking for anything related to intellectual property or technology related content. There was actually some provisions related to intellectual property related matters and those provisions seem to say that the whole idea of an international tribunal system does not apply to intellectual property related topics. So, there are exceptions to what is covered by this international tribunal system that works on its own set of rules.
All this, of course, doesn’t mean that this chapter doesn’t have political ramifications. Far from it as far as I can tell. The idea of corporations now being able to operate on their own laws and skirt domestic laws can be a rather disturbing thought, let alone be something that is actively being drafted. If I’m reading this chapter right (and, I should emphasize I’m not an expert in business), then this could allow some corporations to be literally above the law because they can say, “while we are in your country, we don’t have to abide by any of your rules because we abide by a different set of rules.” Sounds pretty scary to me anyway.