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Kevin Zeese: U.S. Trade Representative wants to keep the public in the dark because TPP will threaten food safety and raise drug prices, and many Asian countries involved in negotiations are also turned off by the deal

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JESSICA DESVARIEUX,TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

WikiLeaks recently released documents which shed light on the status of ongoing TPP negotiations. The revelations demonstrate deep disagreement between the United States and negotiating parties on the issues of intellectual property, agricultural subsidies, and financial services.

Joining us in-studio to discuss the TPP is Kevin Zeese.


DESVARIEUX: Good to see you, Kevin.

Just so our audience know, Kevin is the codirector of It’s Our Economy, an organization that advocates for democratizing the economy. He’s also an organizer with

Thanks for being with us.

ZEESE: Glad to be here.

DESVARIEUX: So, Kevin, just off the bat, can you just give us a sense of what the latest revelations actually reveal?

ZEESE: Well, they revealed reality, and the reality is the opposite of what the U.S. trade representative says, which is not uncommon.

The most recent revelations came out of the Salt Lake City meetings, which were about two weeks ago. And the revelations basically show that there was great divisions between the United States and basically every other country. We were out there alone, pushing for the most extreme pro-transnational corporate power positions, and the countries were resisting. And the memo–leak said, basically, they didn’t see how there would been agreement reached.

Then, after those leaks came out, there was another round of meetings in Singapore. And in Singapore, basically things didn’t happen. They had planned, announced that they were going to finish their negotiations in Singapore, wrap up the agreement, and, in fact, it didn’t happen. And now they’re trying to plan for more negotiations in 2014, still hoping to make this happen, which we would like to see it actuall not happen.

What’s interesting is when the negotiations in Singapore failed, the initial statements by the U.S. trade rep were to blame WikiLeaks, that they caused dissension by letting out the facts, when in fact what WikiLeaks’s documents showed, both leaks–that was the second leak I just described. There was one earlier about intellectual property. Both documents showed that the United States was basically being obstinate, it’s out in left field where everyone else is in center field, it’s refusing to negotiate, and it’s trying to bully countries and really do unethical things. And so countries are resisting and they’re saying, no, we’re not going to do it. And so it’s falling apart, and they blame WikiLeaks rather than themselves.

DESVARIEUX: Yeah. And they’re still, like, believing that they’re not in left field and still saying that they’re in center field. The U.S. trade representative has described the TPP as, quote, an agreement among like-minded countries. That was in an article that was published today in The Washington Post can you describe what the U.S. trade representative is actually hoping to achieve with these negotiations? And which domestic interests is he serving?

ZEESE: Well, it’s not like-minded countries. In fact, the economy’s are very different between the United States and, say, Vietnam or Chili or Peru. You know, one of the big issues is the, you know, state-supported eterprises. You know. And, for example, Japan and Australia have a single-payer health care system. We don’t. We have a market insurance based for-profit system, a commodity system. These countries instead have a system that’s–it’s a public-good health care, not a profit center. So we have a totally different approach.

And you can see that in the negotiations. When you asked who are they trying to benefit, well, one of the big areas of conflict is the pharmaceutical issue. And the United States is really trying to make it very hard for pharmaceutical profits to go down. They’re trying to prop them up with all sorts of protections, you know, patent protections, making it hard for generic drugs to come to the market. They’re making it so that–long patents first that can be evergreened–if you change it slightly you can get an whole ‘nother patent. And then if a generic wants to come to market, they can’t use the research that was used to make the drugs proven safe and effective. They have to do it all over again. So it’s, like, totally protecting these big pharmaceutical companies.

And it’s not just pharmaceuticals. They’re talking about medical procedures. Medical procedures. That’s ever been patented before. Medical devices. They’re trying to allow patents on animals, they’re trying to allow patents on, you know, anything they can patent in order to commodify it and make profits for corporations. That’s what the United States is trying to do, even if that’s illegal currently in many of these countries.

So as opposed to being like-minded countries, what this agreement really is is an agreement between countries that are very different, with the United States being the most pro-corporate, the Obama administration putting forward the most pro-corporate agenda, trying to create laws that protect corporations in many, many ways. And we know that’s happening, of course, because for the last four years it has been negotiated in secret, rather than Congress, which is constitutionally responsible for negotiating trade under the Commerce Clause–. Rather than Congress negotiating it, you have 600 corporations, who have been appointed by the U.S. trade representative to be advisers, they see it live on their computer screen. While it’s a secret to everybody else, they see it live, and they’re suggesting add this paragraph, take out that clause, add this section, take out that section. For four years we’ve had these corporate lawyers trying to write this agreement. So it’s a very pro-corporate agreement.

This is basically a gift to the transnational corporations. It’s bad for U.S. entrepreneurs. It’s bad for the internet. It’s bad for food safety. It’s bad for, you know, almost everything except for the profits of transnational corporations. It’s the opposite of what we need. Trade could be designed to put people and planet before profits, but this one, instead it’s all about profits just for a select few, the biggest businesses in the world.

DESVARIEUX: Let’s turn the corner a little bit, Kevin, and you talk about how trade could benefit, you know, the majority of people.

ZEESE: Well, we can design trade that way. That’s what so sad about it. You know, we’ve taken a very secretive approach. We don’t have to do that. We can actually have an open and transparent approach.

Here’s what we should be doing. We should be setting a new framework. The framework should be a fair trade framework, as opposed to a rigged trade framework. Right now it’s rigged for the corporations. We want a fair trade framework. Second, we need a process that’s open and transparent and participatory, so that civil society can join in the discussions and talk about what they need, what the people need, what the planet needs, as opposed to what these corporate profiteers need. And we’ve done the opposite. We’ve taken the secret approach rather than the transparent approach. And then we should set some goals. And the goals should be, you know, protect the planet, provide for the necessities of the people. Those should be the goals of trade, to really create betterment for everybody.

Instead what we have is an agreement where they create a bigger wealth divide. It’s a wealth divide that, you know, will ensure that the top 5 percent get wealthier. But the bottom 90 percent of Americans, according to research by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, according to their research, the bottom 90 percent will get poorer while the top 5 percent gets richer. That’s the opposite of what we need.

Just today, in fact, research came out showing the United States is the most unequal country in the world as far as developed nations goes. We are in the class of the undeveloped nations, the most corrupt nations, as far as equality of wealth goes. And so we’re the most unequal in the world. And now President Obama’s pushing an agreement that will make it even more unequal.

DESVARIEUX: How much do you think public awareness, the growing public awareness about the TPP, and, some could argue, even opposition, is really due to the WikiLeaks revelation and basically they’re being challenged even further because there’s this public opposition?

ZEESE: Well, there’s both public opposition and there’s opposition by negotiating countries. So there’s opposition coming from a lot of directions. There’s also opposition coming from Congress. And there’s no doubt, as the former U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk, who now is a lobbyist for transnational corporations–he left in January, went to become a lobbyist for big business interests. He was asked by the media, why do you keep this so secret? And the answer was: because the more people know, the less popular it will be. It’ll become impossible to pass. And so their goal is secrecy. They want no one to discuss this and no one to know about it. So every leak helps.

Now, there were leaks before WikiLeaks. There were leaks a year ago, a year and a half ago, that started coming out, we started to get some information. And all the news is bad. And what’s good about the WikiLeaks leaks is that it’s more relation recent, and so the negotiations are further along, so we’re getting more further information.

There are some very important chapters that, if they’re leaked, will create such opposition that there’s no way this will pass, for example the rights of corporations to sue governments in these rigged trade tribunals. I call them rigged because the judges will be three judges, all on leave from their corporate job, becoming judges voting for the corporation and then going back their corporate job. And what they can sue for is not just, you know, their losses, but they can sue for expected profits, for their expected profits. So if you, like, want to hydrofrack in Vietnam and you’ve started to make plans for that and you have massive profits from that coming, you hope, and Vietnam passes a law saying no to hydrofracking, they can sue Vietnam in this rigged court, rigged trade tribunal, and get massive damages of just fantasy profits. And so it’s a really–you know, if that gets leaked, where that’s ended up or how far that’s progressed, that will create incredible opposition, because when people know–. And there’s no appeal for those tribunals. You can’t go to a real court. You’re stuck with that resolve. And so the more people know about this agreement, the more it’s going to become unpopular and the more opposition’s growing.

We’re seeing a movement of movements developing. We’re seeing people from labor, people from environmental activism, people from consumer activism, people from internet activism, from food, GMOs, they’re all starting to come together and starting to say no to the TPP. We’re seeing more and more countries standing up. More countries like Peru are calling for make the–share the contents with their people so people know what’s going on. So there’s a real growing opposition to this.

I think it’s a terrible mistake by the Obama administration–maybe not a mistake in his mind, because he’s maybe trying to help his contributors, but it’s a mistake for the planet and for the people. And we really hope the TPP gets defeated.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Kevin Zeese, organizer for, thank you so much for joining us.

ZEESE: Thanks for having me.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Kevin Zeese is co-director of It's Our Economy, an organization that advocates for democratizing the economy. He's also an attorney who is one of the original organizers of the National Occupation of Washington, DC. He has been active in independent and third party political campaigns including for state legislative offices in Maryland, governor of California and U.S. president, where he served as press secretary and spokesperson for Ralph Nader in 2004. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006 and was the only person ever nominated by the Green Party, Libertarian Party and Populist Party.