TPP: Your Health and Freedom of Speech Are Under Attack
by Chris Campbell
Yesterday, we talked about the high dangers the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) presents to the food industry by handing over special pedestals to the Big Three:
Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta. These three companies, as only one example, make up almost 50% of today’s seed market. And they’re not selling Grandma’s organic heirlooms. (If you missed it, check out our FB page.)
Today, we’ll talk about how the TPP could affect your freedom of speech and expression on (and off) the Internet through draconian intellectual property laws. And how the trade deal could stomp out all innovation and competition in the healthcare industry through oppressive patent laws and slimy tactics. So much for it being a “trade deal,” eh?
“On one level,” Dave Gonigam from the 5 Min. Forecast said, calling it way back in early 2012, “the TPP is the latest in a long line of so-called “free trade” deals that are anything but. “A real free-trade agreement,” Dave wrote, “could be written on a half a page. ‘Country X drops all its stupid tariffs and import duties on goods from Country Y. Country Y does vice versa. The end.’
The TPP is actually, among other things, “a backdoor means to enact the odious Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. “Before a flood of protest stopped it cold in Congress, SOPA would have given the U.S. government the authority to erase websites from the Internet without due process of law if they ran afoul of the bill’s copyright provisions -- which were ridiculously easy to violate.” And the TPP, Dave says, is just a really bad rerun.
How bad? Well, one leaked draft of the TPP proposal involved “civil penalties for copyright infringement that could lead to a $150,000 penalty for a [single] instance,” said Maira Sutton of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It could also lead to jail time for infringement if someone were found to directly or indirectly benefit from an infringement.”
It doesn’t take huge strides of labored thought to understand why this deal has been held secret for so long. In fact, in 2012, the U.S. Trade Representative at the time, Ron Kirk, came clean when he said there’s a problem with being too transparent about the TPP. Secrecy is necessary, he said, because openness has killed similar deals in the past. And it would undoubtedly kill the TPP too. With openness, you see, you run the risk of disagreement and opposition. And who wants that?
The goal of the leaked IP chapter, as Dave mentioned earlier, isn’t to “promote creativity and innovation around the world,” as was stated in a press release from the MPAA shortly after the leak made waves.
Instead, it’s to tighten copyright laws and bring back SOPA-style censorship.
If made law, all copyrighted material could become grounds for punishment. Meaning, you could be fined for sharing something as innocuous as a recipe on your Facebook page. And if some anonymous moron does something on your website that the digital po-po deem unfit, your site can be seized. Further, if you download anything that the ISP deems illegal… even by accident... you could be fined, jailed, or kicked off of the Internet. Yes, your household could become banned from the Interwebs. Like a bad kid in high school.
The government, could, by law, turn your Internet Service Provider (ISP) into the digital police, requiring them to keep tabs on your digital whereabouts. (And, not to mention, all that spying costs money, so you’ll undoubtedly pay for it with a higher Internet bill).
Let’s not forget the best part: This will also likely give the alphabet agencies leeway to monitor your online activity and take action. Copyright laws could become another way to kick in a few thousand doors and shoot a couple dogs each year. (Unfortunately, we’re not kidding. The police racket, as we’ve seen, is already sewn up: Just give them plenty of toys to play with and they’ll waddle anywhere you want them to.)
Point blank: The TPP chapter presents a way to criminalize your online activity, completely destroy your right to privacy, and suck even more money out of your pocket to benefit the cronies.
Aside from your basic rights being choked, TPP will also stifle innovation, far from the trade deal's stated purpose:
This is also, we’re quick to make clear, damaging to journalists, whistleblowers, and any alt. media:
The TPP leak, EFF writes, “also revealed new terms on the misuse of trade secrets. These are dangerously vague and could be used to enact harsh criminal punishments against anyone who reveals or even accesses information through an allegedly confidential “computer system.” This language could have alarming consequences if it obligates nations to enact new laws that could be used to crack down on journalists and whistleblowers.”
“You would think,” the staff at The Daily Bell blog point out, “the Western Media would be covering this world-changing negotiation, as it affects the flow of information over numerous platforms and severely restricts what can be presented without compensation.
“But negotiations started up again in Washington early in December with hardly a word in the mainstream press. The Times of Japan was about the largest media property to cover it.”
The Japanese, it seems, are the most opposed. One could guess it’s because, simply, they’re actually talking about it. Here’s what one flagship Japanese newsreel, The Mainichi, reported last week:
“More than 1,000 people filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government Friday, seeking to halt its involvement in the 12-country talks for a Pacific Rim free trade agreement as “unconstitutional.”
“A total of 1,063 plaintiffs, including eight lawmakers, claimed in the case brought to the Tokyo District Court that the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact would undermine their basic human rights to live and know that are guaranteed under the Constitution.
“The envisaged pact would not only benefit big corporations, but jeopardize the country’s food safety and medical systems and destroy the domestic farm sector, according to the written complaint.”
Well, they’ve done their homework.
And finally, here’s how the TPP benefits Big Pharma…
“In short,” Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange wrote in a press release after the 77-page leak went public, “the TPP will greatly reduce the ability for creating more affordable drugs to save more lives, and increase the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to retain monopolies.”
More specifically, Professor Brook K. Baker, senior policy analyst for Health GAP writes: “The US Trade Representative and the Obama Administration continue to push the industry’s agenda for draconian levels of intellectual property protections that lengthen, broaden, and strengthen patent monopolies on medicines. Proposed language makes it easier to get successive, secondary patents on minor changes or new uses of existing medicines, and patent term extensions that increase monopoly profits on vital medicines -- but at the cost of reduced access for poor and uninsured patients.”
With the passage of the TPP, Big Pharma would have freedom to practice what’s called “evergreening.”
“Evergreening,” The Conversation blog explains, “is achieved by seeking extra patents on variations of the original drug -- new forms of release, new dosages, new combinations or variations, or new forms. Big Pharma refers to this as ‘lifecycle management.’ Even if the patent is dubious, the company can earn more from higher prices than it pays in legal fees to keep the dubious patent alive.”
With the TPP in the ring, though, dubiosity is the name of the game: pharmaceutical and medical device companies could be given 20 years patent protection and the full right to evergreen… meaning, they can renew the patents for another 20 years with a small, useless tweak. And with this power, patents can pretty much be extended indefinitely.
Generic drugs can be up to 95% cheaper than their branded counterparts. Same for some devices. So… imagine what happens to healthcare costs if generics are completely phased out.
But that’s not all: “the TPP goes farther than previous agreements by also requiring that surgical techniques, medical tests and treatments be patented,” Margaret Flowers, MD, points out on Al Jazeera. “This will restrict the availability of these treatments, especially in health systems that have limited resources.”
Meanwhile, as pointed out, the mainstream circus media and politicos aren’t debating what you would think would be at the heart of the matter in a trade deal…
Instead the media is focused on Obama and his broad pitches on the TPP. One of his arguments, for example, is that the passage of the TPP is a matter of “national security.” Because we haven’t heard that one before.
This time, it’s China. Obama recently told The Wall Street Journal: “If we don’t write the rules, China will write the rules… We will be shut out… We don’t want China to use its size to muscle other countries in the region.”
Shinzo, a man just as warped as Obama, recently said in a speech to the U.S. Congress that the agreement was about “democracy and freedom”... and that “It’s strategic value is awesome.” But we disagree about its awesomeness.
"Proponents who argue that the TPP is vital to countering China’s ambitions," Daniel Slane counters on the Defense One blog, "are ignoring the fact that those countries aren’t rushing into China’s embrace. In fact, just the opposite is true. Several of the TPP participants are more interested in stronger alliances with the United States which aren’t dependent on preferential trade relations and new trade agreements. In essence, they need the United States as a counter to China, and the TPP is not a factor in assessing the risks that China poses. Our 'pivot to Asia' doesn’t need to be anchored by a new preferential trade agreement."
If Slane is right, the excuse, then, is just a lame attempt to rally support against a shared enemy.
Also, in a press conference with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Obama called TPP critics “conspiracy theorists.”
Their criticism, he went on, “reflects lack of knowledge of what is going on in the negotiations.”
“The government has created a perfect Catch 22,” says Commissioner Michael Wessel, who says he’s seen the deal personally: “The law prohibits us from talking about the specifics of what we’ve seen, allowing the president to criticize us for not being specific. Instead of simply admitting that he disagrees with me -- and with many other cleared advisors -- about the merits of the TPP, the president pretends that our specific, pointed criticisms don’t exist.”
“But my point is,” Obama went on to the Malaysian PM, “you shouldn’t be surprised if there are going to be objections, protests, rumors, conspiracy theories, political aggravation around a trade deal.”
Instead of embrace debate, the Almighty Supreme himself says, let’s simply lump an entire side of an argument into the most undesirable classification there is. Nobody wants to be called a conspiracy theorist. Not even the conspiracy theorists. The association is a bunch of wackos with tin foil on their heads, speaking into a microphone that shoots signals into space.
But secrecy, Obama must know, breeds suspicion. And this time, the suspicion is warranted. Inside the so-called “trade deal,” only five of the 29 chapters of the deal are about… what is it again?
Oh, yeah... trade. The rest? The remaining 24, it appears, are focused on changes that the cronies have failed to pass through Congress in the past -- such as restrictions on Internet privacy, increased patent protections, and access to litigation.
Moreover, unlike trade deals in the past, the White House refuses to release this one to the public -- even after it’s made law. In fact, TPP negotiators claim the text won’t see the light of day in the public’s eye until four years after it is signed into law. Because by then, of course, the opportunity to do something about it will have died long ago.
And it will be far too late. Until tomorrow..
[Note: What’s more, Senator’s are trying to piggyback the TPP to insert rules against currency manipulation. Not going to happen. And even if they did, it would be impossible to implement. Click here to see why. © 2015 Laissez Faire Books, LLC]