Roundup: Public skepticism growing while LatAm's TPP members tout treaty

2015-10-07 11:43

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While officials from the three Latin American members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were touting the treaty's potential to boost trade and generate jobs, public skepticism about the secretive deal was growing.

The governments of Mexico, Peru and Chile celebrated Monday's signing of the TPP, whose contents were drafted with the help of the world's largest corporate interests, while remaining a mystery to ordinary citizens, whose jobs could be affected.

The accord is designed to drive trade between the parties by essentially lowering tariffs and standardizing laws governing intellectual property rights, labor rights, environmental protection, and investor-state disputes.

It involves 12 Pacific-Rim countries, namely the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, as well as the three Latin American countries.

The accord still needs to be ratified by the 12 signatories, which could take months or even longer time.

The wide-ranging free-trade agreement "will translate into greater investment opportunities and well-paid jobs for Mexicans," Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto said via Twitter.

The Argentine Pagina 12 daily on Tuesday reported that the agreement contains elements "that sound several alarms," including "the possibility of companies suing states when they feel their interests are harmed."

Critics fear that corporate interests may be able to override national interests owing to certain clauses, and that the TPP generally surrenders too much sovereignty and restricts individual rights in the interest of unfettered trade.

Still, Latin America's three TPP partners are banking on the benefits outweighing the disadvantages. More straightforward, Ulises Granados, program coordinator of Asia-Pacific studies at Mexico's Autonomous Technological Institute, told Pagina 12, "I don't think any of the three governments will speak publicly about the great dangers" posed by the TPP.

Peruvian daily La Republica highlighted the accord's potential to raise the price of medications by extending patents on pharmaceutical products beyond today's standard periods, though there could be an immediate benefit that Australian and New Zealand markets would be opened to Peruvian products according to Peru's National Society of Industries.

"These measures will prevent the entry into our country of cheaper generic drugs and biosimilar drugs," the daily said. Chile's Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz did acknowledge fears that the TPP will make some productive sectors more vulnerable to competition, while insisting the country's negotiators "achieved a very valuable agreement for Chile, safeguarding our interests."

Chile already has accords with each of the 12 treaty members, but expects the TPP to expand those ties.

Andres Rebolledo, leader of Chile's negotiating team, has stressed to reach a final "balanced" agreement, urging negotiators to take into account Chileans' concerns about the TPP.

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