UC Berkeley researchers raise corporate misconduct concerns regarding Trans-Pacific Partnership in report

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UC Berkeley researchers raised corporate misconduct concerns regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, in an analytical report from the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society published Tuesday.

The TPP, the largest regional trade agreement in history, was signed Feb. 4 by ministers of 12 participating countries — including the United States — that account for about 40 percent of the global GDP. The TPP would require signatory countries to conform to policies on financial services, intellectual property, Internet policy and safety inspections, among other areas.

The report alleged failings of the TPP in three key areas: democratic participation, transparency and public accountability. Co-author of the report Hossein Ayazi, a graduate research assistant for the Haas Institute’s Global Justice Program, alleged in an email that the TPP would harm the livelihoods of millions of individuals internationally.

“(The TPP is) the latest iteration of a global trend of political power being modeled almost entirely after the market-based economy (and) of national governments selling out the interests of the people they serve in order to instead serve the interest of corporations,” Ayazi said in an email.

According to the report, the TPP — pending ratification by each signatory country — would allow corporations to regulate themselves with regard to the environment, labor, health care and medicine. The TPP thus allows corporations to bypass regulations and maximize profits, said campus public policy professor Robert Reich in a post on his website.

For example, he wrote, if the pharmaceutical industry is granted more stringent patent protections, its drugs will remain at higher prices.

“That will be a good deal for Big Pharma but not necessarily for the inhabitants of developing nations who won’t get certain life-saving drugs at a cost they can afford,” Reich said in the post.

Forest Barnes, president of Cal Berkeley Democrats, said he agrees with the report’s characterization of the TPP as serving the interests of corporations and failing to protect laborers or the environment, despite its promises.

“Profits will go to the people who are already richer and already have more and will hurt middle-income and lower-income workers as their jobs are shipped overseas,” Barnes said.  

Barnes added, however, that the TPP could also facilitate stronger international ties, which could then reduce conflicts between countries as their economies become increasingly intertwined.

The TPP may facilitate higher overall productivity and specialization of goods by country, according to campus economics professor Andres Rodriguez-Clare, but access to foreign markets may not be equitable among countries.

Elsadig Elsheikh, co-author of the report and the Haas Institute’s Global Justice Program director, said in an email that the TPP was written in secrecy and with the input of corporate influences rather than that of elected U.S. officials, thus forgoing core American democratic values, even though the TPP aims to benefit American workers and the middle class and increase the export of American products.

“(Those) who have been historically marginalized by such agreements … need to have greater capacity for participation in decision-making processes,” Ayazi said in an email.

Elsheikh said in an email that it is crucial to raise public awareness of the TPP’s terms and implications and that U.S. Congress members will respond based on public pressure.

The TPP agreement will go through Congress via Fast Track, meaning that it will either pass or fail in full without negotiations.

Contact Hannah Lewis at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hlewis_dc.