Will the RCEP Kill the TPP and Why You’ve Never Heard of Either One

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Unless you subscribe to Public Citizen or the Kucinich Report (from retiring Congressman Dennis Kucinich), you won’t have heard of the secret trade negotiations related to the Transpacific Partnership (TTP), aka the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The TPP is a “free” trade agreement like NAFTA or GATT (the treaty which created the WTO) but much worse.

A major goal of US multinational corporations for the TPP is to impose on trading partners a set of extreme foreign investor privileges and rights and their private enforcement through the notorious “investor-state” system. This system allows foreign corporations to challenge, at international tribunals, health, consumer safety, environmental, and other laws and regulations that potentially affect the profitability of both domestic and foreign companies. If a corporation “wins”, the taxpayers of the “losing” country must foot the bill. (See Investment rules harm public health). Thus TPP will virtually obliterate the right of member countries to protect labor rights, enforce environmental and food safety standards and otherwise protect their citizens from amoral and rapacious corporate profit-seeking.

RCEP stands for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. This is a newly proposed free trade treaty coming out of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at their recent summit in Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Negotiations on RCEP are expected to start in earnest in 2013 (see ASEAN leaders begin RCEP negotiations). Outside of the Asian and Australian press, the RCEP has been virtually invisible in the corporate media.

The New (Old?) Trade War with China

The most important difference between the two free trade treaties is that TPP excludes China, Japan and Korea. RCEP would include all fifteen Asia countries comprising ASEAN, plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand and exclude the US (See post-US world born in Phnom Penh). In other words, half the world’s population.

Both Korea and Japan have been invited to join TPP but are waffling, owing to harsh TPP provisions that potentially undermine their sovereignty and their economies.

Obama has deliberately excluded China, the world’s second largest economy, from TPP. Why? Because the US is engaged in a trade war with China and doing everything possible to isolate China economically and militarily (see Trade war in the Pacific).

With many Asian countries, especially Korea, Japan and Thailand, showing a clear preference for the less restrictive RCEP, the President’s end run around China, Congress and the American public may have backfired.

The TTP Treaty is Classified

The main reason you haven’t heard of the TPP is that the text of the secret trade treaty is “classified.” Even though 600 corporations are allowed online access to the entire text, access is denied to the public and members of Congress. Moreover the draft treaty contains specific provisions prohibiting its release to citizens of member countries until three years after ratification. Fortunately enough of the text has been leaked for numerous Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate (which must approve all treaties) to be extremely hacked off about being excluded from the process. While NAFTA and GATT were being negotiated, former President Clinton kept Congress fully in the loop and even allowed them limited input.

The preceding article originally appeared in its entirety here at Dissident Voice. 

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