Due to the ongoing negotiation process concerning the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TTPA) in Hanoi (1st to 10th September, 2014) the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Southeast Asia (RLS SEA) organized a meeting under the headline: “Updating on the ongoing TPP negotiations and the impacts of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on the legal, social and health sector in Vietnam”.
Therefore, two experts – Prof. Jane Kelsey (University of Auckland) and Sanya Reid Smith (Legal Adviser and Senior Researcher from the Third World Network), where invited to the RLS SEA office in Hanoi at the 5th September, 2014.
First, Professor Kelsey outlined the actual status and background of the TPPA negotiation process. Thereby, she pointed out that the negotiations persist since four years and include twelve countries. The actual hold up is that Japan and the USA cannot agree on agriculture principles.
She went on to explain that the extraordinary characteristics comparing to other trade agreements is the deepness, TPPA will influence present and future governments and political decision makers. Characteristically therefore are three main issues:
First of all more access for private companies from TPPA-member countries to services, investments, government procurement and to commodities of every kind shall be created. That is accompanied by an empowerment of multinational companies, through the Inverstor State Dispute Settlement mechanisms which involve offshore arbitration tribunals that are usually run by private lawyers who also are interested in an opening up of new markets and hence, actively seek for such disputes where investors try to sue governments for billions of USD. Such cases will also happen if a sovereign government decides to change its laws, e. g. in favour of better environmental protection, social security etc. but which investors see as a threat for income losses.
The second issue highlighted by Prof. Kelsey were the rules for food standards, labelling and especially discussed in the field of intellectual property rights, which will be extended in the framework of the TPPA. These new regulations related to new patent rights could worsen the already tense situation in medical treatment issues in many developing countries.
Finally remains the situation, that from actually 29 existing chapters (exact numbers and titles are still unknown) just six chapters refer to trade issues, the other 23 chapters are about non-trade concerns e. g. environmental, medicine and labour regulations. Thereby, the two experts pointed out, that these 23 chapters especially favour the developed countries.
Furthermore the two experts highlighted the superior role of the US in the TPPA process – the so called certification mechanism – including the right to review and wipe out chosen passages in the already signed TPPA in the pure interest of the US. The presentation was closed by a conclusion mentioning major issues for Vietnam. To name but a few the fields of state-owned enterprises, health care and medicines, intellectual property, public procurement and currency manipulation where discussed.
In the following group discussion some sub-areas were further explored, e. g. the interaction between TPPA and established trade agreements, potential snowball effects after the implementation of TTPA and the mentioned changes in intellectual property rights referred to the fact, that the US is the main net exporter of intellectual properties in the TTPA constellation.
Finally remains the problem that, except of a handful of people, no one really knows what is written in the TTPA. The negotiations go on in secrecy.