Tag Archives: Congress

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Terrible for Public Health

TPP

Reposted from the Huffington Post

Fifteen years ago, basic AIDS drugs cost more than $10,000 per person per year. Many of the people who needed them most — especially those living in poor countries — couldn’t pay. Millions died before public health advocates persuaded the U.S. and other governments to act — not because needed medicine didn’t exist, but because those who needed it couldn’t afford it.

Things began to change in 2001, when an Indian generic medicine firm called Cipla introduced a dollar-a-day AIDS drug cocktail. President Bush, to his great credit, created a phenomenally successful global AIDS relief program not long after. Countless lives have been saved since.

That story — of smart government action and a generic pharmaceutical company’s willingness to act- – provides an important contrast to what’s happening today as federal negotiators work out terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a pending trade deal between the U.S. and 11 Asian trading partners. Despite the damage it would do to global health, U.S. officials are advancing special rules that expand drug giants’ power under TPP, blocking generic drug competition that could save the lives of people suffering from cancer, HIV and other diseases. Our negotiators have even pushed for the agreement to provide tobacco companies with special rights to sue governments and undermine health regulation in quasi-judicial foreign tribunals.

We didn’t have to end up here. In 2007, Democratic leaders in Congress brokered a deal with the Bush administration to reduce the harmful consequences of U.S. trade policy on workers, our environment and our health. But the so-called May 10 agreement was only a start.

We hoped the Obama administration would build on that agreement and refocus trade policy and strategy on the needs of working people. Unfortunately, the administration has backtracked from even the modest safeguards President Bush supported.

This failure is particularly acute in the area of public health. American proposals for TPP language undermine countries’ drug reimbursement programs and restrict our partners’ efforts to curb youth smoking through honest cigarette packaging. Other Obama administration proposals facilitate patent abuse and could impede AIDS relief efforts in Vietnam.

One especially distressing U.S. proposal imposes long monopoly periods for cancer drugs and other biotech medicines. Most new cancer medicines are priced at more than $100,000 per person, to the outrage of many oncologists. Without competition reducing prices, public programs in developing countries simply won’t be able to provide lifesaving treatments.

The White House made a public pledge to reduce the high costs of these same cancer medicines for Americans. But if the administration is supporting lengthy monopoly periods in the final TPP draft, any future Congressional effort to shorten the monopoly period in the U.S. would violate our TPP obligations, subjecting the federal government to trade sanctions and pharmaceutical lawsuits outside the purview of U.S. courts.

That’s why Big Pharma wants this secretive rule. Trade agreements have become a favorite tool for corporations and their lobbyists to get what they want when Congress — or any country’s deliberative body — rejects their arguments. Jamming a few paragraphs into an enormous, complicated international agreement can be worth billions of dollars and freeze the public out of the process.

According to the Sunlight Foundation, pharmaceutical company lobbying reports mentioned TPP 251 times in a recent four-year period, far more than any other industry. That money has paid off: the U.S. Trade Representative seems to be taking Big Pharma’s line. Doctors Without Borders calls TPP the “worst trade deal ever” for access to medicines. The Vatican, the American Medical Association and AARP, among many other organizations, have raised serious concerns about the damage it would certainly do to public health.

The TPP is a bad deal for taxpayers, for doctors and for everyone who believes in corporate transparency. If rammed through Congress via fast-track trade authority, which doesn’t allow Congress to offer any amendments, it will lead to lost jobs and lost lives.

The Constitution assigns Congress the responsibility to make trade policy. It’s time to take that responsibility seriously.

 

We Must Act Now to Save America!

capital

Due to decades of failing trade policies we have jobs that have left our shores, our manufacturing sector has been decimated and our infrastructure is crumbling beneath our feet. We cannot stand idly by and allow these policies to continue. Much of this has been because of our membership in the WTO and our “free trade” agreements.

From Democracy to Plutocracy

democracy

In Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are equivalent to people, and thus have the same first amendment rights. Any attempt to abridge those rights (for example, the McCain-Feingold bill, which limited campaign donations) is a violation of the Constitution. This disastrous decision has paved the way for companies that care more about overseas profits than America.

Fast Track Is Unconstitutional and Should Be Rejected

Fast Track

President Obama is attempting to push through the largest trade deal in human history. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, will set new rules, which we know very little about, regulating the economies of 12 countries including the United States, Japan, Canada and Australia. The United States has negotiated the TPP almost entirely in secret with the assistance of 600 paid lobbyists, of which 500 are corporate advisers. Most of what we know about the TPP has been through internet leaks. Basically, by the use of “free trade” agreements our leaders and Congress are handing over our nation’s wealth to foreign countries like China, but also to multinational corporations.

On the Wrong Side of Globalization

globalization

Trade agreements are a subject that can cause the eyes to glaze over, but we should all be paying attention. Right now, there are trade proposals in the works that threaten to put most Americans on the wrong side of globalization.

The conflicting views about the agreements are actually tearing at the fabric of the Democratic Party, though you wouldn’t know it from President Obama’s rhetoric. In his State of the Union address, for example, he blandly referred to “new trade partnerships” that would “create more jobs.” Most immediately at issue is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which would bring together 12 countries along the Pacific Rim in what would be the largest free trade area in the world.

Negotiations for the TPP began in 2010, for the purpose, according to the United States Trade Representative, of increasing trade and investment, through lowering tariffs and other trade barriers among participating countries. But the TPP negotiations have been taking place in secret, forcing us to rely on leaked drafts to guess at the proposed provisions. At the same time, Congress introduced a billthis year that would grant the White House filibuster-proof fast-track authority, under which Congress simply approves or rejects whatever trade agreement is put before it, without revisions or amendments.

Controversy has erupted, and justifiably so. Based on the leaks — and the history of arrangements in past trade pacts — it is easy to infer the shape of the whole TPP, and it doesn’t look good. There is a real risk that it will benefit the wealthiest sliver of the American and global elite at the expense of everyone else. The fact that such a plan is under consideration at all is testament to how deeply inequality reverberates through our economic policies.

Worse, agreements like the TPP are only one aspect of a larger problem: our gross mismanagement of globalization.

Read the full article on the New York Times.

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