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TPP secrets: Obama covertly granting more power to multinational corporations

Published time: June 13, 2012 16:20
Edited time: June 14, 2012 01:15
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign fund raising event at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 12, 2012 (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign fund raising event at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 12, 2012 (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Despite the White House’s efforts to keep a proposed free trade agreement concealed from the public — and even Congress — an excerpt from the TPP leaked Wednesday reveals that President Obama is prepared to bow to multinational corporations.

The United States has been engaged in discussion with eight Pacific nations to come to agreement on the terms of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade contract that would allow for a more open system of exchange between the US and less developed nations. Critics have been concerned, however, over how provisions of the project could drive up the price of medications and other goods across the world. The White House’s reluctance to provide details to even leading lawmakers responsible for America’s trade plans has caused a rift within the president’s own political party as his administration remains adamant about protecting the items being heard.

A section of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership was leaked to the Web early Wednesday, and its contents suggest that US President Barack Obama was perhaps not so genuine with promises made while campaigning in 2008 and even offers some insight into why his administration has been eerily secretive about the TPP.

Details about negotiations determined during meetings between White House officials and leaders from the eight Pacific nations involved in the TPP have been so hidden from the public that even some members of the US Congress have called on the president to come forth with information. In a leak published this week by the advocacy website Public Citizen, though, it’s made clear that the Obama administration has every intention of backpedaling on previous promises that could largely impact regulations that will directly affect the safety and financial security of millions of Americans and international citizens.

According to the leaked excerpt, the Obama administration has been considering TPP provisions that would allow foreign corporations operating within the United States to appeal regulations on the environment and banking that would be forced on American-owned businesses with no chance of reprieve. While the United States could be sanctioned for failing to impose regulations on American-run businesses, multinational corporations are practically encouraged to do as much because the TPP outlines a clear avenue to file an appeal. If one of the eight Pacific nations chooses to do as much, their plea would be heard by an international tribunal that could overrule US law.

Such key components of the leaked TPP document conflict directly with campaign promises harped by then-candidate President Obama while vying for the White House. Huffington Post reports that during the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama was clear in emphasizing, "We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to US investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications.”

On the contrary, President Obama is reportedly not so concerned today. Condemning the president over how the TPP could alter intellectual property standards are many critics who fear that the agreement would lead to the monopolization of life-saving drugs and thus propel the prices to an unaffordable amount.

"Bush was better than Obama on this," Judit Rius of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign tells HuffPo. "It's pathetic, but it is what it is. The world's upside-down."

Last month, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) introduced legislation that specifically targets the Obama administration by demanding that the White House open up on details about the proposed TPP. Despite serving as chair of the United States Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, Sen. Wyden has been largely left uninformed about the details of the TPP all while the White House has opened up to the multinational corporations expected to profit through the proposal.

“The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations – like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America – are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement,” said Wyden. The senator’s legislation would require the United States Trade Representative office “to provide documents related to trade negotiations to members of Congress and their staff upon request.”