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Manuel Perez-Rocha, policy analyst at Institute for Policy Studies, says that the stated purpose of the agreement – to eliminate tariffs – has distracted people from its more subtle goal of protecting corporate profits

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THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN: On Monday the twelve countries that are negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, or TPP, said they had concluded a deal that’s been eight years in the making. MICHAEL FROMAN, U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE: We expect this historic agreement to promote economic growth, support higher paying jobs, enhance innovation, productivity, and competitiveness, raise living standards, reduce poverty in our countries, and to promote transparency, good governance, and strong labor and environmental protections. HEDGES: The Obama administration pushed heavily for the agreement, which was negotiated behind closed doors along with a number of corporate lobbyists. Supporters say the TPP’s intended purpose is to eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers in order to allow goods to flow more easily between member countries. But critics say the agreement has more to do with corporate sovereignty than with trade. MANUEL PEREZ-ROCHA, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: Formally it’s a corporate agreement. And the United States trade representative issued a summary of what is on the table. And in this summary we see very contradictory objectives. HEDGES: Manuel Perez-Rocha is a policy analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies at Washington, DC. He says that what the agreement really does is set up a judicial system whereby corporate profits are prioritized at the expense of environmental and labor regulations. PEREZ-ROCHA: Supposedly there will be a chapter on development, which will be focused on attaining sustainable development objectives as well as environmental objectives. But in this summary they made very clear that this will be on a voluntary basis. On the other hand we have investor rights, investor protections, that are very binding. They are enforceable mechanisms, as we have seen in other free trade agreements like NAFTA, where countries are for example being taken to international tribunals when they enforce labor or environmental policies, or other public policies that affect the profits of corporations. HEDGES: Obama has called the TPP the most progressive trade agreement in our nation’s history, citing its strong environmental and labor protection laws. But Perez-Rocha says that there’s a very different narrative abroad, where not only workers, environmentalists, and activists among others are resisting the TPP, but companies, too. PEREZ-ROCHA: It’s not only consumers, unions, farmer organizations that are against this agreement. Many, many companies in many countries and many entrepreneur organizations and associations are very concerned. For example in Mexico, my country, dairy industry, the dairy industry, the textile industry, the car industry have been very preoccupied for these agreements because of increased competition that the Mexican industry will have from other countries. HEDGES: The text of the TPP is expected to be released in the next couple of months, after which Congress will have 90 days to review it without being able to amend it before finally voting yes or no on the agreement. PEREZ-ROCHA: There will be a lot of people, a lot of organizations, fighting hard. This is the real fight on this agreement, trying to demonstrate, as I said, its contradictions and how rhetoric doesn’t match the real protections that investors in other countries are getting. HEDGES: For the Real News, Thomas Hedges, Washington.


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Thomas Hedges is a freelance photographer, videographer and writer based out of New York/New Jersey. His work has appeared in The Guardian, Salon, Demos, The Nation, NowThis, Brut. Media, Thrillist, and CBS. Hedges formerly worked as a producer for TRNN. Follow him @TAHedges.