The transparency advocacy group WikiLeaks on Friday released what is believed to be the final version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has been one of the most controversial chapters and could have "wide-ranging effects on Internet services, medicines, publishers, civil liberties and biological patents," WikiLeaks said.
The document is dated Oct. 5, the same day it was announced that the U.S. and the 11 other member states reached a final agreement on the TPP, the largest regional trade deal in history, which represents more than 40 percent of global gross domestic product. Member nations include many of the Pacific Rim countries, Peru, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Chile, Japan and Colombia.
The stated goal of the TPP is to lower trade barriers, promote innovation, enforce labor and environmental law standards, stimulate economic growth, and create a standard for intellectual property, according to The Independent. If ratified, all member nations would have to abide by the TPP rules.
Negotiations for the secret agreement have been going on for years, and it has come under intense scrutiny from a number of Internet freedom activists, health professionals, environmentalists, labor rights groups and elected officials. Many say that the deal caters to the interests of the wealthiest and serves the needs of corporations rather than citizens of member countries.
One of the more concerning sections of the IP chapter are what appear to be new restrictions on generic drugs, which are much more affordable than drugs produced by patent holders inside the pharmaceutical industry, RT reported.
"The finalized chapter would require all countries eventually to conform to every pharmaceutical patent rule in the TPP, regardless of any individual country's wealth (or lack thereof) or level of development," according to Public Citizen, a government transparency group that wrote an expert analysis of the leaked documents. "If adopted, the rules will delay generic and biosimilar competition, making the medicines upon which people depend to stay alive expensive for longer and, as a consequence, unobtainable."
The group continued: "There is little reason to believe that these rules would actually be good for the people residing in TPP countries, even after the transition periods allowed. Indeed, even in the U.S., where similar rules are already in place, the high prices of medicines - bolstered by TPP-style monopolistic protections - have led to treatment rationing, prescriptions going unfilled and severe budgetary strains."
Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen's global access to medicines program, warned that the "new monopoly rights for big pharmaceutical firms would compromise access to medicines in TPP countries. The TPP would cost lives."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights advocacy group, said the IP chapter "confirms our worst fears about the agreement."
"Perhaps the biggest overall defeat for users is the extension of the copyright term to life plus 70 years (QQ.G.6), despite a broad consensus that this makes no economic sense, and simply amounts to a transfer of wealth from users to large, rights-holding corporations," the EFF said. "The extension will make life more difficult for libraries and archives, for journalists, and for ordinary users seeking to make use of works from long-dead authors that rightfully belong in the public domain."
The full TPP text will not be released to the public until after Oct. 19, the date of the Canadian federal election. The accord will then face months of scrutiny by the U.S. Congress, perhaps going to April.
The agreement could be a legacy-making achievement for President Obama, who is expected to attempt to gain support from a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers by presenting the TPP as a bulwark against China's global economic power and influence, according to The New York Times.
"When more than 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders, we can't let countries like China write the rules of the global economy," Obama said in a statement. "We should write those rules, opening new markets to American products while setting high standards for protecting workers and preserving our environment."