Economy

Demise of TPP and its signal for other trade pact negotiations

P. T. Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on January 15, 2018

tpp

Civil society groups across Asia, Latin America, Oceania, and North America are upbeat on what they are calling the “definitive demise” of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The mother of all trade agreements, the TPP was criticised for the cloak of secrecy surrounding its negotiations that would have impacted the health, environment and labour of the countries involved. Civil society groups have been opposing it for over seven years now.

On Friday, the US Obama administration conceded it could not gain congressional approval of the TPP, which had been its top priority since the pact’s February 2016 signing, a note from the civil society groups said. “And the bipartisan revolt against the deal in the US electorate that played out in congressional and presidential elections has left no path for a resurrected TPP, signifying its definitive demise,” it added.

So are there some signals for India in the “demise” of the TPP, at a time when it is involved with multiple trade negotiations in the region and with the European Union?

The TPP is a mega deal that involves 12 countries, including the US, Australia, Canada, etc. And it was criticised by pro-health and other civil groups for its proposals that could expand monopolies for pharmaceutical firms, expand investor rights, deregulate finance etc. A key concern was also the enhanced protection of intellectual property (IP) and the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision that allowed foreign investors to sue a Government internationally, if they felt domestic policy had hurt their investment in the country.

The lesson for India from the “death” of the TPP is to proceed with caution in its trade negotiations – be it the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) or the free trade agreement with the European Union, says Gopakumar with The Third World Network. However, he observes, while the TPP in its present version is dead, it could resurface in a different avatar under the new US President.

“People and planet”

Anti-TPP groups are clear they will continue the fight against any other trade deal that did not put “people and the planet first”. The TPP, they say, would have “expanded corporate power to destroy peoples’ livelihoods, undermine human rights and the environment, threaten financial stability, increase the cost of life-saving medicines and attack health and other pro-people safeguards.”

The key lesson from the TPP’s defeat is that “just because the President of the United States and transnational corporations want something, it doesn’t mean we need to give it to them,” says Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, a fair trade coalition that fought the TPP in the US. “With peoples’ movements united across borders and across sectors, we were able to stop a power grab by some of the most powerful economic and political interests in human history. That’s something to keep in mind during the hard years to come under President Trump and other corporate-aligned political leaders,” he added.

jyothi.datta@thehindu.co.in

Published on November 16, 2016

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