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Chapter 12 of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement leaked

TPP is a trade agreement being negotiated in secret between the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam; but is designed to allow additional nations to join later. Canada, Japan and Mexico are believed to be among countries already seeking to do so.

Analyses of the leaked document will emerge over the next few days, but the texts “clearly contain proposals designed to give transnational corporations special rights that go far beyond those possessed by domestic businesses and American citizens,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign.

The purpose seems to be to allow international corporations to be judged by the laws of their native country, overriding the laws of the countries in which they operate. The document reveals, says a Public Citizen analysis, “that negotiators already have agreed to many radical terms granting expansive new rights and privileges for foreign investors and their private corporate enforcement through extra-judicial “investor-state” tribunals.” It adds, “U.S. negotiators are alone in seeking to expand this extra-judicial enforcement system to also allow the use of foreign tribunals to enforce contracts foreign investors may have with a government for government procurement or to operate utilities contracts and even for concessions related to natural resources on federal lands.”

This is already causing huge controversy. “The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of TPP negotiations,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Via closed-door negotiations, U.S. officials are rewriting swaths of U.S. law that have nothing to do with trade and in a move that will infuriate left and right alike have agreed to submit the U.S. government to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals that can order unlimited payments of our tax dollars to foreign corporations that don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms do.”

Of course the same argument will apply to every different nation within the agreement – and the true ‘winner’ will be the country with the largest number of international companies. This could explain why the US is leading the negotiations; and why Japan reputedly wants to join. Only Australia seems to be holding out against this approach, but the New Zealand Herald has this morning suggested that the objection won’t last. It reports that Australian Prime Minister John Kay is unhappy with the idea of Australian-only objection carried through to the final agreement. "I would be very surprised," he said yesterday. "I think we're all in or all out... An exclusion solely for Australia and not for everybody else is unlikely to be something we would support.”

“The airing of this one TPP chapter, which greatly favors foreign corporations over domestic businesses and the public interest and exposes us to significant financial liabilities,” says Wallach, “shows that the whole draft text must be released immediately so it can be reviewed and debated. Absent that, these negotiations must be ended now.”