The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will dramatically undermine the housing rights of Americans, primarily by prohibiting meaningful government control over financial institutions. Americans have already lost over five million homes to foreclosure as a result of the 2008 economic collapse. Virtually every regulatory measure that could have averted this crisis will now be banned by the TPP.
According to the Citizen Trade Campaign, the TPP will put an end to any government policy that:
- Imposes any limit whatsoever on the size of banks (“too big to fail”)
- Establishes a Glass-Steagell-style firewall between different types of financial institutions
- Limits or bans any specific financial derivatives no matter how toxic or risky
- Enacts capital controls designed to protect national currencies against speculation
The TPP includes an “investor-state” provision that specifically grants global banks the power to challenge any law or regulation of any country that reduces their profits as a “regulatory taking”. It could then take that country to a private international tribunal that entirely circumvents all public judicial authorities. The tribunal would be authorized to force countries to either rescind their laws or pay “damages” from their treasuries directly to global corporations.
The TPP will not only allow further speculative bubbles like the 2000s sub-prime mortgage scandal: it will make them much bigger and make them inevitable.
Finally, the TPP will undermine housing affordability by weakening government affordable housing programs and further shredding public and HUD-subsidized housing all across the country. It will accomplish this not only through corporate seizure of public assets, but also by dramatically eroding the tax base by offshoring millions of jobs.
The TPP will outlaw almost every single housing and financial provision in the Stein-Honkala Green New Deal, and effectively nullify the right to housing. Public banks would be out of the question. The TPP would enthrone the power of corporations and tear down the very vision of human rights that has inspired Americans for over 200 years.
TPP would make health care even more expensive, less accountable, less accessible
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a deal that is being secretly negotiated by the White House, with help from more than 600 corporate advisors, and Pacific Rim nations including Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Chile, Peru, Australia and New Zealand. While the TPP is being called a trade agreement, the United States already has trade agreements covering 90 percent of the GDP of the countries involved in the talks. Instead, the TPP is a major power grab by large corporations.
The text of the TPP includes 29 chapters, only five of which concern trade. The remaining chapters are focused on changes that multinational corporations have not been able to pass in Congress such as restrictions on internet privacy, increased patent protections, greater access to litigation and further financial deregulation.
So far, all that is known about the contents of the TPP is from documents that have been leaked and reports from non-governmental organizations and industry meetings. Unlike other trade deals, the White House refuses to make the text available to the public. In fact, the negotiators refuse to publish the text until four years after it is signed into law.
From the information available, one thing is clear about the impacts of the TPP on health care. The intention of the TPP is to enhance and protect the profits of medical and pharmaceutical corporations without regard for the harmful effects their policies will have on human health.
We know that the TPP will extend pharmaceutical and medical device patents and provide other tools to keep the prices of these necessities high. This will make medications and treatments unaffordable for millions of people and raise the costs of national health programs, including public health systems in the U.S.. At its worst, the TPP will provide a pathway to infect the world’s health systems with the deadly parasite of for-profit health corporations that plague the United States.
The major health threats posed by the TPP include:
- Extensive patent protections. Through the TPP, pharmaceutical and medical device corporations are seeking extensive patent protections using a process known as ‘Evergreening.’ The TPP gives twenty years of patent protection for pharmaceuticals and medical devices; however, patents can be renewed for another twenty years each time there is a change in an indication or delivery.
- Doctors without Borders criticized this practice, stating that patent protections in previous trade agreements raised the price of life-saving medications and made them unavailable to people in poorer countries. Patents prevent the production of low cost generic forms of medications.
- Because of the negative impact on public health from patent protections in previous trade agreements, such as the Korea Free Trade Agreement, former President Bush rolled some of these practices back. Unfortunately, the TPP will move them forward again. In fact, the TPP goes farther to require patents on surgical techniques, medical tests and treatments.
- Prevention of necessary innovation. Doctors without Borders also expressed concern that patent protections encourage innovation based on profit instead of on the needs of people, particularly those in poor nations. Corporations do not see it as in their financial interest to address health conditions more prevalent in poor nations which do not have the financial resources to buy their products. But it is often in these situations where treatment can have the greatest impact on quality of life.
- Attack on public health systems. An area of great concern is language within the TPP concerning State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). These are institutions that are fully or partially owned by governments, which could include public health systems.
- Corporate lobbyists are concerned that SOEs have ‘unfair advantages’ over private industry. These advantages include government subsidies, preferred tax status, low finance rates and access to capital. According to a leaked chapter, corporate lobbyists believe that there is a conflict of interest because SOEs have political considerations such as functioning to provide basic goods and services for their population and believe that instead SOEs should operate strictly as commercial entities.
- The TPP requires SOEs to disclose any special advantages they receive and the government to give the same advantages to corporations. It also provides methods for corporations to sue governments if they believe that they are not being treated fairly.
- Text from a section of the TPP called “Annex on Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Healthcare Technologies” was leaked in June, 2011. It reveals that medical industries are pushing on all fronts to keep their prices and prevent public health systems from negotiating to keep prices affordable. To medical industries, price negotiation is one of the ‘unfair advantages’ of public health systems. When a public health system negotiates a lower price, it is said to be exerting its market power. On the flip side, when a government extends patent protections to medical industries, this is not considered to be a use of market power by the industry.
- Greater control over reimbursement. Medical industries are pushing for other concessions within the TPP to ‘level the playing field,” also known as forcing public entities to operate as market-based entities, such as factoring the cost of not just research, development and production of drugs and medical devices but also the cost of marketing them into what is considered to be a fair market price. And they only view prices negotiated without any government influence as fair. These provisions are significant because the TPP allows pharmaceutical corporations and others to challenge the legitimacy of any reimbursement decisions made by public health systems through the courts.
- Patent and price protections for multinational pharmaceutical and medical device corporations based in the U.S. will benefit their bottom line and their investor’s pockets, but may bounce back and undermine public health systems in the U.S.. The leaked text indicates that the above provisions only apply to health authorities under the jurisdiction of the federal government. However, the loop holes are large enough that all of the U.S. public health systems, which include Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare and the Veterans Health Administration, can arguably be considered to be federal.
To solve the health crisis in the U.S., we must move away from privatization of health care and towards a public health system with a mission to improve and protect the health of the public.
Therefore, the Health Council of the Green Shadow Cabinet opposes provisions within the TransPacific Partnership that make profit more important than public health. We oppose all provisions that restrict access to necessary medications, medical tests and treatments. Rather than the expansion of patent protections, there should be increased sharing of medical knowledge to promote improved global public health.
~ The Health Council is led by Secretary of Health Dr. Margaret Flowers, serving within the General Welfare Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet. This statement is one of over a dozen issued in support of the Green Shadow Cabinet’s June 17th call for action against the TPP.