Trade mark

The Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trap

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - LATHA JISHNU |

Flong while it was a dis­tant OR A bo­gey, a crea­ture whose form was in­de­ter­mi­nate and whose char­ac­ter­is­tics were shrouded in se­crecy. Then came a se­ries of leaks that re­vealed some of its fea­tures, none of it whole­some.As the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, or tpp, a mega trade and in­vest­ment agree­ment, took clear shape and picked up pace in ne­go­ti­a­tions it has be­come one of the most widely dis­cussed acronyms glob­ally, more so in na­tions that are not among the core mem­bers.tpp clubs to­gether US,Ja­pan, Aus­tralia, Peru, Malaysia, Viet­nam, New Zealand, Chile, Sin­ga­pore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darus­salam, na­tions across the At­lantic and Pa­cific.It rep­re­sents some of the most ro­bust economies that ac­count for nearly 40 per cent of global gdp and 26 per cent of trade. Ea­ger to join are a hand­ful of other na­tions, no­tably South Korea and Tai­wan. The tpp be­he­moth is roughly the size of the Trans-At­lantic Trade and In­vest­ment Part­ner­ship (ttip), another loom­ing mon­ster that will put the US and the EU in a tighter eco­nomic em­brace.

It’s the next big thing on the world trade scene, and for In­dia, which is not part of the 12-na­tion group, tpp presents a huge dilemma: should it try to join the pact with its tar­get of a zero tar­iff regime and high stan­dards,or face in­evitable trade ex­clu­sion?

tpp’s bite is in the agree­ment on labour stan­dards, en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards and In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Rights (ipr) stan­dards, all of which are rich coun­tries re­quire­ments that are un­ac­cept­able to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries be­cause these will have an im­pact on their eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. The wto-plus stan­dards—so termed be­cause it sets higher stan­dards than re­quired by the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion (wto)—that this agree­ment de­mands is one rea­son why global civil so­ci­ety groups, think tanks and even mem­bers of the US Congress have launched a cam­paign against it.

The other rea­son tpp has turned into an acro­nym of fear is on ac­count of the deep se­crecy sur­round­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions. So se­cre­tive is the process that a draft on healthcare rules leaked by Wik­iLeaks shows it is re­stricted from re­lease for four years af­ter the pas­sage of the tpp into law (see ‘What the Wik­iLeaks re­veal’ p21).

The US-based Elec­tronic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion, which works to safe­guard Net free­dom, warned in Oc­to­ber last year in the wake of another leak that tpp “will re­write the global rules on IP en­force­ment”. Mem­bers would have to change their do­mes­tic laws and poli­cies to meet the en­hanced lev­els of IP pro­tec­tion on copy­right and patents.

Such fears were fu­elled once again when Wik­iLeaks re­leased another set of doc­u­ments on June 10.Ac­cord­ing to one anal­y­sis, it will force healthcare author­i­ties to give big pharma more in­for­ma­tion about na­tional de­ci­sions on public ac­cess to medicine,while at the same time grant­ing cor­po­ra­tions greater pow­ers to chal­lenge de­ci­sions they per­ceive as harm­ful to their in­ter­ests.

An ex­pert anal­y­sis pub­lished by Wik­iLeaks along with leaked drafts said the healthcare rules ap­pear de­signed to crip­ple New Zealand’s strong public healthcare pro­gramme and to in­hibit other na­tions from adopt­ing sim­i­lar poli­cies. It also be­lieves the rules will “tie the hands of the US Congress in its abil­ity to pur­sue re­forms of the Medi­care pro­gramme”.

But what is the crit­i­cal is­sue for In­dia? The tpp is in the coun­try’s backyard, so to speak,and the risks there­fore are not very far off. In­dia,like China,has of­fi­cially shown no in­cli­na­tion to join the con­tro­ver­sial trade pact. Even if it wished to do so, all the tpp mem­bers have to agree on its join­ing,a rather un­likely prospect in the near fu­ture since In­dia’s stan­dards fall far short of the norm.

Over the past year, the Min­istry of Com­merce has be­come in­creas­ingly wor­ried about the im­pli­ca­tions of tpp and has been hold­ing a se­ries of meet­ings to grap­ple with the is­sues posed by the emerg­ing be­he­moth. Com­merce Sec­re­tary Ra­jeev Kher has been en­cour­ag­ing in­dus­try to look at tpp as “an op­por­tu­nity to look at our own stan­dards and bring it up to global lev­els” to make In­dian ex­ports more com­pet­i­tive. In April, once

TPP will hit mar­ket ac­cess for In­dia's ex­ports even af­ter the coun­try up­grades ca­pac­i­ties to meet higher global stan­dards

again, at a ficci seminar, Kher warned the tpp and ttip will pose chal­lenges to In­dian in­dus­try as In­dia is not part of these pacts.

Ear­lier, Su­jata Me­hta, sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs told a Con­fed­er­a­tion of In­dian In­dus­try (cii)meet­ing of trade pol­icy ex­perts and in­dus­try chiefs in Au­gust 2014 that “tpp may well be­come the gold stan­dard”.This would leave the coun­try with two op­tions: ei­ther con­sider join­ing the tpp or adopt­ing wto plus stan­dards.

On In­dia’s ex­port prospects,the out­look is clearly grim.Har­sha Vard­han Singh,se­nior fel­low at the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment, gave a wor­ry­ing prog­no­sis at the cii meet­ing. Mar­ket ac­cess for In­dia’s ex­ports would not only be hit by tpp but ac­cess to large parts of the global mar­kets will prove dif­fi­cult even af­ter up­grad­ing ca­pac­i­ties to meet higher stan­dards.

Singh,a for­mer deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral of wto, warned that poor coun­tries would find them­selves shut out of global mar­kets be­cause of these mega trade pacts.

“The im­por­tant thing is not just meet­ing the stan­dards, but also the sys­tem which is used to de­ter­mine that the stan­dard is ac­tu­ally con­sis­tent with what is be­ing de­manded,” Singh told the meet­ing. That sys­tem of­ten tends to be ex­clu­sion­ary.

At a July 2014 work­shop in Bei­jing to dis­cuss im­pli­ca­tions of tpp specif­i­cally for In­dia and China,Singh clar­i­fied there would be two types of stan­dards with higher con­tent.The first is the more generic,such as en­vi­ron­men­tal and labour stan­dards, and their im­pact would be on many sec­tors of the econ­omy. The sec­ond would be prod­uct­spe­cific stan­dards, with higher lev­els of con­tent re­quire­ments and in­creas­ing over time through their link with de­vel­op­ments in pri­vate stan­dards.

Be­cause these stan­dards will be­come in­creas­ingly higher and more per­va­sive,In­dia would have to im­prove its ca­pac­ity build­ing in the area of stan­dards. With­out such mea­sures, In­dian ex­ports could face sud­den death in the tpp and ttip coun­tries. That’s half the world mar­ket.

REUTERS

Ja­panese farm­ers stage a protest against Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship on June 13. Global health and green

ac­tivists are un­happy with the var­i­ous pro­vi­sions in the leaked draft chap­ters of the trade agree­ment

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