TPP Protests, Ag and Pharma and More

Kyodo reports that

Japan mulls concession on rice in TPP negotiations

TOKYO, Jan. 30, Kyodo
Japan has offered to import more rice from the United States in response to strident calls from Washington to make a concession toward concluding Pacific Rim free trade talks, negotiation sources said Friday.
During bilateral talks, Japan has proposed a plan to increase annual rice imports from the United States by some 50,000 tons as part of its quota for an emergency stockpile under the envisioned Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative, the sources said.
Japan has sought to protect its key farm products -- rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy and sugar -- as exceptions to the tariff-abolishing TPP. As rice, the staple part of the Japanese diet, is especially regarded as off-limits, agricultural lobbyists and lawmakers with close ties to farmers could react sharply against Tokyo's plan.

 
http://www.democracynow.org/2015/1/28/headlines/protesters_interrupt_us_trade_rep_at_tpp_hearing

Protesters Interrupt U.S. Trade Rep at TPP Hearing

Democracy Now!
January 28, 2015

(10:52-long video included in link; trade section begins around minute 9:00)

The top U.S. trade official has told lawmakers the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal could be wrapped up within months and urged Congress to give the White House fast-track authority to approve the deal. Protesters with the group Flush the Trans-Pacific Partnership repeatedly interrupted U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman’s testimony before Congress. The protesters — Dr. Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and retired steelworker Richard Ochs — were all arrested after being removed from the hearing.

Michael Froman: "At USTR, we’re advancing those goals by knocking down barriers to U.S. exports and leveling the playing field for American workers and businesses of all sizes. As we work to open markets around the world, we’re"—

Dr. Margaret Flowers: "Mr. Froman, you are not telling the American people the truth. We know that the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been negotiated in secret for five years, when you’re trying to rush it through Congress with fast track because it’s secret and you know that things in there are going to hurt the American people. They’re going to offshore our jobs and lower our wages, in fact. Our job is to protect our communities."

Sen. Orrin Hatch: "Let’s have order. All right, remove this person from the room, and if anybody else—if anybody else does this, we’re going to be—you’re going to be removed."

Dr. Margaret Flowers: "They’re not going to allow us to protect our communities from corporations that want to poison us. They’re not going to allow us to protect our workers from poor working conditions. You are not going to get fast track. The American people are against it. They’re against the TPP. No secret trade deal!"

Kevin Zeese: "We’re saying stop fast track, today."

Richard Ochs: "No TPP! No"—

Kevin Zeese: "We don’t want supersized NAFTA. We don’t want—we don’t want [inaudible]."

Sen. Orrin Hatch: "Remove these people."

Kevin Zeese: "We don’t want to undermine [inaudible]. We believe in democracy, not secrecy. We want transparency!"

Richard Ochs: "No TPP! No TPP! No TPP!"


http://rt.com/usa/226791-hatch-froman-tpp-protest/


Anti-trade deal protesters hijack Senate TPP hearing


RT
By Staff Writers
January 27, 2015

Protesters opposed to a major, multi-national trade deal being negotiated in secret by a dozen countries – including the United States – hijacked a US Senate hearing early Tuesday to speak out against the proposal.

Capitol Police removed no fewer than three demonstrators Tuesday morning during testimony delivered before the Senate Committee on Finance by US Trade Representative Michael Froman concerning the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

Froman had just begun making his opening statements when a protester in the Senate gallery got out of her seat and interrupted the ambassador.

“You are not telling the American people the truth,” said the woman.

“We know that the TPP has been negotiated in secret for five years. You’re trying to rush it through Congress and fast track it because its secret and you know that the things in there are going to hurt the American people,” she said.

As the woman was escorted out of the room, other demonstrators began displaying signs, including lawyer and activist Kevin Zeese.

“We believe in Democracy, not secrecy,” Zeese said as he unfurled a large white banner inscribed with anti-TPP slogans.

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Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), the Committee’s chairman, attempted to rein the hearing in while acknowledging the ambivalence concerning the TPP — a 12-nation proposal that would encode new trade rules for intellectual property and market access and eliminate long-existing tariffs while, according to opponents like intellectual Joe Stiglitz, "restrict access to knowledge."
In addition to IP restrictions, critics have also taken issue with the lack of transparency concerning meetings between potential TPP partners, including the US and several nations in the Asia-Pacific region. Draft documents have previously been published by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in an effort to disclose as much of the agreement as possible before it is adopted, but opponents of the proposal in the US have expressed concern that Congress could “fast track” the deal to expedite authorization by presenting it to the House and Senate with no amendments attached.

READ MORE: TPP Uncovered: WikiLeaks releases draft of highly-secretive multi-national trade deal

“I understand that some people have strong feelings about the subject were talking about today. That’s fine,” Hatch told the protesters. “The First Amendment guarantees your right to express your views, but we have to allow civil discussion to occur in the context of this hearing.”

Ambassador Froman soon after continued his testimony, but was almost immediately interrupted by another protester who said the “big business corporate secret deals are costing American jobs.”

Protesters then held up signs, including one reading “Fast Track: Constitutional Train Wreck,” before Froman attempted once again to continue his testimony.

According to a written statement prepared by Froman ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, the Office of the US Trade Representative is narrowing in on finalizing TPP negotiations, expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

“At the TPP Leaders meeting in November convened by President Obama, all 12 countries took note of the progress that has been made on TPP, and agreed that the end of the negotiation is now coming into focus. And the TPP countries reaffirmed their commitment to concluding a comprehensive, high-standard agreement, and to work toward finalizing the TPP agreement as soon as possible,” Froman said.

"We are not done yet but I feel confident that we are making good progress and we can close out a positive package soon," said the ambassador, adding that his office’s agenda “is committed to supporting more good jobs, promoting growth and strengthening America’s middle class.”

Along with the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan have expressed interest in signing the TPP.




Don't Trade Away Our Health


By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ

JAN. 30, 2015

A secretive group met behind closed doors in New York this week. What they decided may lead to higher drug prices for you and hundreds of millions around the world.

Representatives from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries convened to decide the future of their trade relations in the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.). Powerful companies appear to have been given influence over the proceedings, even as full access is withheld from many government officials from the partnership countries.

Among the topics negotiators have considered are some of the most contentious T.P.P. provisions — those relating to intellectual property rights. And we’re not talking just about music downloads and pirated DVDs. These rules could help big pharmaceutical companies maintain or increase their monopoly profits on brand-name drugs.

The secrecy of the T.P.P. negotiations makes them maddeningly opaque and hard to discuss. But we can get a pretty good idea of what’s happening, based on documents obtained by WikiLeaks from past meetings (they began in 2010), what we know of American influence in other trade agreements, and what others and myself have gleaned from talking to negotiators.

Trade agreements are negotiated by the office of the United States Trade Representative, supposedly on behalf of the American people. Historically, though, the trade representative’s office has aligned itself with corporate interests. If big pharmaceutical companies hold sway — as the leaked documents indicate they do — the T.P.P. could block cheaper generic drugs from the market. Big Pharma’s profits would rise, at the expense of the health of patients and the budgets of consumers and governments.

There are two ways the office of the trade representative can use the T.P.P. to maintain or raise drug prices and profits.

The first is to restrict competition from generics. It’s axiomatic that more competition means lower prices. When companies have to fight for customers, they end up cutting their prices. When a patent expires, any company can enter the market with a generic version of a drug. The differences in prices between brand-name and generic drugs are mind- and budget-blowing. Just the availability of generics drives prices down: In generics-friendly India, for example, Gilead Sciences, which makes an effective hepatitis-C drug, recently announced that it would sell the drug for a little more than 1 percent of the $84,000 it charges here.

That’s why, since the United States opened up its domestic market to generics in 1984, they have grown from 19 percent of prescriptions to 86 percent, by some accounts saving the United States government, consumers and employers more than $100 billion a year. Drug companies stand to gain handsomely if the T.P.P. limits the sale of generics.

The second strategy is to undermine government regulation of drug prices. More competition is not the only way to keep down the prices of essential goods and services. Governments can also directly restrain prices through law, or effectively restrain them by denying reimbursement to patients for “overpriced” drugs — thus encouraging companies to bring down their prices to approved levels. These regulatory approaches are especially important in markets where competition is limited, as it is in the drug market. If the United States Trade Representative gets its way, the T.P.P. will limit the ability of partner countries to restrict prices. And the pharmaceutical companies surely hope the “standard” they help set in this agreement will become global — for example, by becoming the starting point for United States negotiations with the European Union over the same issues.

Americans might shrug at the prospect of soaring drug prices around the world. After all, the United States already allows drug companies to charge what they want. But that doesn’t mean we might not want to change things someday. Here again, the T.P.P. has us cornered: Trade agreements, and in particular individual provisions within them, are typically far more difficult to alter or repeal than domestic laws.

We can’t be sure which of these features have made it through this week’s negotiations. What’s clear is that the overall thrust of the intellectual property section of the T.P.P. is for less competition and higher drug prices. The effects will go beyond the 12 T.P.P. countries. Barriers to generics in the Pacific will put pressure on producers of such drugs in other countries, like India, as well.

Of course, pharmaceutical companies claim they need to charge high prices to fund their research and development. This just isn’t so. For one thing, drug companies spend more on marketing and advertising than on new ideas. Overly restrictive intellectual property rights actually slow new discoveries, by making it more difficult for scientists to build on the research of others and by choking off the exchange of ideas that is critical to innovation. As it is, most of the important innovations come out of our universities and research centers, like the National Institutes of Health, funded by government and foundations.

The efforts to raise drug prices in the T.P.P. take us in the wrong direction. The whole world may come to pay a price in the form of worse health and unnecessary deaths.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a professor at Columbia and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, is the author of “The Price of Inequality.”

http://blogs.rollcall.com/hill-blotter/fast-track-protesters-trade-michael-froman/?dcz=

Protesters Arrested at Fast-Track Trade Hearing

http://blogs.rollcall.com/hill-blotter/fast-track-protesters-trade-michael-froman/?dcz=


Protesters Arrested at Fast-Track Trade Hearing

Roll Call
By Hannah Hess
January 27, 2015

Capitol Police arrested three sign-carrying, slogan-shouting demonstrators who disrupted a Tuesday morning Senate Finance Committee hearing on the president’s trade policy agenda.

The protesters wore shirts reading “No Fast Track” and greeted U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman with signs stating, “Froman lies” — a response to his statement to the committee that trade promotion authority “is Congress’s best tool to ensure that there is ample time for public scrutiny and debate on U.S. trade agreements.”

Organizers claimed fast-track legislation limits the amount of time Congress has to consider agreements and suspends its ability to make amendments to the texts.

image001.png

Roll Call

By Hannah Hess

January 27, 2015



Capitol Police arrested three sign-carrying, slogan-shouting demonstrators who disrupted a Tuesday morning Senate Finance Committee hearing on the president’s trade policy agenda.

The protesters wore shirts reading “No Fast Track” and greeted U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman with signs stating, “Froman lies” — a response to his statement to the committee that trade promotion authority “is Congress’s best tool to ensure that there is ample time for public scrutiny and debate on U.S. trade agreements.”

Organizers claimed fast-track legislation limits the amount of time Congress has to consider agreements and suspends its ability to make amendments to the texts.

image001.png

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch of Utah engaged one protester in a brief back and forth, telling him he was “not representing your people well.”

Details on charges against the three protesters were not immediately available, according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider.

Kate Ackley contributed to this report.


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