The visit of the US head of state refloated the topic of Argentina’s possible adhesion to the polemic Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The free-trade agreement gives power to corporations in several areas including patents in health and technology and favors judicial demands against states. To adhere to the TPP would mean to leave the Mercosur.
In his recent visit to Argentina, Barack Obama discussed with his local counterpart an issue that is key for his end of mandate: the consolidation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.
The TPP is a free-trade agreement that has been already signed by 12 countries, and that has raised strong criticism because of the secretiveness surrounding each one of its clauses.
As it name indicates, the TPP includes nations that have coasts on the Pacific Ocean, such as the US itself, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. One of the declared goals of the initiative is to stop the influence of China on world commerce, which in the last decade began to gain power, especially on this side of the planet.
Of course, Argentina doesn’t have coasts on the Pacific ocean, but the simple possibility of forging an economic alliance with the Northern power is a dream which would come true for Mauricio Macri and his team. The Argentine President expressed, during Obama’s visit that he desired to take part in this plan, which is aimed to put the US back in its former position as leader of the world economy.
To achieve this, Macri will have to overcome a major obstacle: to break ties with the countries that make up the Mercosur, which has criticized the TPP since it was first launched in 2009.
The climate of economic and political crisis in Brazil is an opportunity for Macri to carry out his move without deeply damaging Argentina’s relations with the country.
To the eyes of the national Executive, Uruguay and Paraguay’s opinion is irrelevant compared to the opportunity of discussing commercial agreements with Japan, Australia or other countries in Asia.
The problem, despite the ideological sympathy that Macrismo has towards the US, resides in the characteristics of the TPP, which has sparked much criticism even in the countries that are already part of the agreement.
The TPP was born in 2005, but it was promoted mainly since 2009, when the US entered the alliance. It’s nothing more than an extended version of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which progressivist governments in South America managed to defeat in the same year in which the TPP was launched.
The pact is promoted as just an elimination of customs taxes, but it conceals much more: of the 30 chapters of the treaty, only 5 refer to this topic. The others include new regulations in intellectual property, patents in general, telecommunications, workers’ rights and even environment.
Despite the fact that it was negotiated in secret among a handful of officials of the interested country, though always with predominance of the US, part of what is hidden in the TPP came to light thanks to several leaks published by WikiLeaks.
Among the most worrying clauses are the rules for the pharmaceutical industry, which extend laboratories’ patents to up to 20 years. Through this mechanism, the agreement undermines the ability of member countries to use the results of private investigations to develop generic medicines.
The agreement also establishes controls for internet providers. Providers will act as censors of content, mainly to control copyright infringements. The TPP obliges member countries to pass laws to banish free circulation of data.
The agreement emphasizes on guaranteeing profit and monopolistic conditions for the main US industries in countries where state has important attributions in matters such as health and education.