Monday, April 15, 2013

Protests against TPP go global as Malaysian, Japanese groups oppose deal

The list is getting longer of people who oppose the latest job-killing trade deal -- the TPP -- because it will lower their standard of living and endanger their lives. It includes Japanese farmers, New Zealand union membersAustralian digital rights activists, Malaysian youth, Japanese consumers and American environmentalists. For starters.

Japanese farmers and consumers most recently joined the outcry against the TPP, along with Malaysian farmers, environmentalists and human rights groups.

They are all citizens of a dozen Pacific Rim countries, alarmed about the treaty because it's being negotiated secretly. Well, except for the corporate lobbyists who have access to the talks.

The next round of negotiations will take place in Lima, Peru, in May. Negotiators hope to wrap up the talks by October and then ram them through their respective legislatures.

Last week the U.S. and Japan announced a deal that would allow Tokyo to join the talks. That raised alarms among unions, especially the UAW and the Teamsters, because of the United States' historic trade imbalance with Japan. Automakers and farmers in both countries are alarmed.

The Japan Times reports,
Farmers and carmakers alike are airing concerns about the Japan-U.S. accord reached last week that endorsed Tokyo’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, even as major domestic business lobbies hailed the move. 
The agricultural sector fears that Japan’s entry to the trade liberalization discussions will result in an influx of bargain-basement food imports, while automakers are lamenting the bilateral agreement reached Friday for what they perceive as unequal treatment compared to their South Korean rivals... 
Kotaro Endo, a 60-year-old rice farmer in Yamagata Prefecture, expressed distrust of the government, saying he finds it “incomprehensible” that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to take part in the multilateral talks before securing a promise from the U.S. to exclude sensitive items from tariff elimination... 
The TPP, which aims to create a massive free-trade area among Pacific Rim economies, is also prompting fears that it may undermine food safety, as labeling requirements for food additives and genetically modified items, as well as standards on pesticide residue, could be relaxed. 
Yasuaki Yamaura, cohead of the Consumers Union of Japan, voiced alarm over what he sees as the overly rapid preparatory process the government has engaged in to obtain approval to take part in the TPP talks, saying consumers and producers have not been sufficiently informed. 
A coalition of Malaysian groups protested the TPP in a letter to the U.S. Embassy on April 11, a global day of action against free trade deals. Titled "No to the Trans-Pacific Partnerhip Agreement," the group wrote:
... the TPPA has come under scrutiny for having very little to do with trade and very little to do with the interests and welfare of the almost half-a-billion people in whose name it is being signed... 
We reject investment provisions that restrict the ability of governments to act – whether over capital controls, environmental policies or other public interest measures – without being exposed to the threat of legal suits by investors. We reject ISDS, in particular, and insist on the integrity and supremacy in TPPA countries of their domestic legal and judiciary systems. 
We reject all TRIPS-plus intellectual property (IP) provisions such as patent term extensions, data exclusivity, border control measures and others that negatively affect access to affordable medicines. 
We reject all proposals in general that negatively affect access to environmental and climate-friendly technological solutions, threaten food security as well as the access to and sustainable use of our rich biological biodiversity and access to knowledge. 
We demand an end to the secrecy that has shielded the TPPA negotiations from the scrutiny of national lawmakers and the public.
Stay tuned.