Planet Not For Sale

70 groups tell Obama: Don’t restrict GMO labeling in trade agreements

Subtitle:  Consumer rights on the table in US-EU trade talks Language:  English IATP author(s):  IATP File:  TAFTA_GMO_PR.pdf WASHINGTON, D.C. – Seventy consumer, farm and food groups, and businesses urged the Obama Administration in a letter today not to restrict efforts to label genetically modified foods in the ongoing and secret U.S.-EU trade talks. Through negotiations on the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) with the European Union, the U.S. Trade Representative seeks to establish common regulations covering consumer protections, and has targeted the European Union’s regulations of genetically modified foods, which includes consumer labeling. U.S. and EU agribusiness firms have been open about...

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Categorie: Planet Not For Sale

CAFTA and the Forced Migration Crisis

Eyes on Trade - 26 September, 2014 - 16:09

What does a trade agreement have to do with the thousands of unaccompanied children risking their lives to try to cross the U.S. southern border?  

Earlier this month Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) hosted a congressional briefing entitled "Economic Underpinnings Of Migration In The Americas," focusing on the role that the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) has played in contributing to the forced migration crisis.  

Watch Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and GTW research director Ben Beachy explain how CAFTA has exacerbated the instability feeding this crisis in the video below.  Ben's prepared remarks follow. 

0:00 -- Congresswoman Kaptur introduces the event
4:57 -- Ben delivers remarks
16:40 -- Congresswoman Kaptur answers a question about Fast Track
24:34 -- Ben answers a question on how to achieve a more fair trade model

 

CAFTA and the Forced Migration Crisis

Ben Beachy, Research Director, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

I’d like to start with a quote from former Representative Tom Davis, from my home state of Virginia, when he was speaking on the House floor in favor of CAFTA on July 27, 2005.  He said:

“…we need to understand that CAFTA is more than just a trade pact. It's a signal of U.S. commitment to democracy and prosperity for our neighbors. And it's the best immigration, anti-gang, and anti-drug policy at our disposal…Want to fight the ever-more-violent MS-13 gang activity originating in El Salvador but prospering in Northern Virginia? Pass CAFTA …Want to begin to ebb the growing flow of illegal immigrants from Central America? Pass CAFTA.

One day later, the House passed CAFTA, at midnight, by a single vote.

Nine years later, gang and drug-related violence in Central America has reached record highs and the “growing flow” of immigrants from Central America that Representative Davis referenced has surged.

At a minimum, CAFTA failed to stem violence and migration from Central America as Rep. Davis and other CAFTA proponents promised.  But it’s worse than that.  The deal appears to have actually contributed to the economic instability feeding the region’s increase in violence and forced migration. 

I’m not going to argue that CAFTA is singularly responsible for the surge of Central American children trying to cross the southern border into the United States.  The horrific violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala is the proximate cause of this crisis.  But that violence has been fed by economic instability in those countries.  And it makes sense to examine whether CAFTA has done more to mitigate or to exacerbate that instability. 

The evidence, unfortunately points to the latter.  Under CAFTA, family farmers in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have not fared well, the economies have become dependent on short-lived apparel assembly jobs – many of which have vanished, and economic growth has actually slowed. 

First, let’s look at the situation for family farmers.  A number of development groups unfortunately predicted during the CAFTA debate that the deal could lead to the displacement of the family farmers that comprise significant portions of the region’s workforce.  Indeed, that should have been the expected result if NAFTA, the predecessor to CAFTA, offers any indication. 

NAFTA removed Mexican tariffs on corn imports and eliminated Mexican supports for small farmers but did not discipline U.S. subsidies.  The predictable result was an influx of cheap U.S. corn into Mexico, which caused the price paid to Mexican farmers for the corn that they grew to fall by 66 percent, forcing many to abandon farming.  An estimated 1.1 million small-scale farmers and 1.4 million other Mexicans dependent on agriculture soon lost their livelihoods.  Immigration to the United States soon soared.  While the number of people immigrating to the United States from Mexico remained steady in the three years preceding NAFTA’s implementation, the number of annual immigrants to the U.S. from Mexico more than doubled in NAFTA’s first seven years. 

Under CAFTA, family farmers in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have been similarly inundated with subsidized agricultural imports – mainly grains – from U.S. agribusinesses.  Agricultural imports from the United States in those three CAFTA countries have risen 78 percent since the deal went into effect.  While these exports represent a small fraction of the business of U.S. agricultural firms, they represent a big threat to the Central American family farmers who do not have the subsidies, technology, and land to compete with the influx of grain.  

And despite promises to the contrary, most small-scale farmers in those countries have not seen a boost in exports of their products to the United States.  The growth in agricultural exports from El Salvador to the U.S. under CAFTA has actually been lower than global growth in agricultural exports to the U.S.  And Honduras’s agricultural exports to the U.S. have been swamped by the surge in agricultural imports.  Honduras went from being a net agricultural exporter to the United States in the six straight years before CAFTA to being a net agricultural importer from the United States in the six straight years after the deal took effect. 

Some CAFTA proponents understood that Central America’s small-scale farmers may not fare well under the deal, but promised that displaced workers could find new jobs in the garment assembly factories, or maquilas, producing clothing for export to the U.S.  These factories are not only notorious for abusing workers’ rights and paying low wages, but for leaving a country as soon as cheaper wages can be found in another low-wage country.  Indeed, this race to the bottom was evident in Mexico under NAFTA.  Maquila employment surged in NAFTA’s first six years. But since 2001, hundreds of factories and hundreds of thousands of jobs in this sector have been displaced as China joined the WTO and Chinese sweatshop exports gained global market share. 

Apparel production in Central America’s factories has faced a similar fate.  Apparel exports to the United States from each of the three countries in question – Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala – were lower last year than in the year before CAFTA took effect.  In Honduras, apparel exports to the U.S. have fallen more than 20 percent in CAFTA’s first 9 years.  Guatemala has seen a nearly 40% downfall.  Jobs in the apparel factories of Central America would be expected to disappear even quicker if the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership would take effect.  The TPP contains Vietnam, where the average minimum wage is 52 cents an hour – a fraction of minimum wages in Central America, and even in China. 

A final promise of CAFTA that I’ll highlight is that the pact would boost Central American economic growth.  This promise was also made for Mexico under NAFTA.  But since NAFTA took effect, Mexico’s average annual per capita growth rate has been just 1 percent, significantly lower than the pre-NAFTA rate. Indeed, Mexico had the third-lowest per capita growth rate in all of Latin America during the first 20 years of NAFTA. 

The outcome has not been much better under CAFTA.  The average annual GDP growth rates in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have all been lower than the overall growth rate in Latin American developing countries in CAFTA’s first 9 years. In fact, the average annual growth rates of El Salvador and Honduras have fallen since the deal took effect, while the growth rate of Guatemala went from being above the regional average before CAFTA to falling below it since CAFTA. 

These aggregate numbers of course represent thousands of individual families who have found themselves facing increased economic instability and greater difficulty in making ends meet.  Thousands of youth more susceptible to the influence of gangs and drugs.  And thousands of children who have decided that a life threatening journey to the United States is better than an even more life-threatening existence at home.  

In sum, representative Davis was clearly wrong, as were the other CAFTA proponents who promised the deal would bring “prosperity” to Central America, thereby diminishing gang and drug-related violence and stemming the need to migrate to the U.S. 

While Rep. Davis is no longer in Congress, his arguments are still here.  Some members of Congress and industry lobbyists are making very similar promises regarding the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership – which would expand the NAFTA/CAFTA model across the Pacific.  They have argued, essentially, that this time will be different.  That this time, a more-of-the-same trade deal will actually spur prosperity among our trade partners. 

Most members of Congress, thankfully, are not buying it.  Most Democrats have opposed the effort to Fast Track the TPP through Congress, as has a sizeable bloc of Republicans.  For those still on the fence, it would be prudent to consider the failed legacy of past agreements before committing us, and our trade partners, to a new one.  

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Pharmaceutical CEO: This Controversial Deal Will Be Great for Us…And You (Trust Us)

Eyes on Trade - 19 September, 2014 - 00:24

In an op-ed appearing in Forbes on Tuesday, the CEO of Eli Lilly, a U.S. pharmaceutical corporation, paints a glowing picture of how the proposed Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) would benefit consumers on both sides of the Atlantic – but it’s pure fantasy.

It is not surprising that Eli Lilly is cheerleading this controversial deal. This is the same pharmaceutical firm that is using the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – TAFTA’s predecessor – to challenge Canada’s legal standards for granting patents and demand $500 million in taxpayer compensation.

John Lechleiter, Lilly’s CEO, shrouds his arguments under the guise of “free trade,” while in reality Lilly’s TAFTA proposals are a plea for increased government protection for his company and expansion of the monopolistic business model upon which the multinational pharmaceutical industry relies.

This post will take on Mr. Lechleiter’s claims, one by one.


Claim: [Differing regulatory standards for approval of pharmaceutical products] represents a de-facto tax on innovation.

Reality: The pharmaceutical industry (like the chemical industry, the GMO industry, the oil and gas industry, the financial industry, etc.) sees higher regulatory standards as unfair barriers to trade. In its submission to the Office of the United States Trade Representative of its TAFTA wish list, PhRMA (a powerful pharmaceutical industry lobby group of which Lilly is a member) outlines precisely what sorts of “regulatory barriers” it would like to see dismantled by the deal. These include rolling back the EU’s rules requiring clinical trial data to be transparent. When given access to this data, researchers have discovered information that could have potentially saved thousands of lives and billions in government spending. If Lilly and other pharmaceutical multinationals get their wish, it could prevent the public from gaining critical information about the safety and efficacy of our medicines.

Claim: A unified approach to IP would take out some of the twists and turns in the drug development pipeline for innovators on both sides of the Atlantic.

Reality: Through analysis of previously negotiated free trade agreements (FTAs), leaked texts of agreements currently under negotiation and industry comments, we can see that FTAs have continually decreased access to medicines in the name of increasing pharmaceutical corporations’ “intellectual property.” By enshrining in FTAs rules that lengthen, strengthen and broaden the patent monopolies of pharmaceutical companies, drug costs become bloated, healthcare budgets are inflated, and access to medicines for patients in need is stifled. There is every reason to believe that an EU-U.S. FTA would be no different.

Claim: TTIP is a great chance to ensure that the process for reimbursing medicines throughout the EU is clear, predictable and transparent.

Reality: Big Pharma has quite a different notion of what the word “transparency” means than most people. What Mr. Lechleiter really means is that he would like his industry to have greater influence over government drug reimbursement decisions for pubic health programs like Medicaid and Medicare. Governments control public health costs by listing medicines approved for government purchase or reimbursement and negotiating with drug firms to obtain the lowest prices. Including rules in TAFTA that would require governments to allow greater pharmaceutical industry influence over such cost containment efforts is yet another mechanism for pharmaceutical companies to inflate prices and boost their bottom line at the expense of consumers and taxpayers.

Claim: [Discovery and development] of new medicines starts with the resources necessary for investment in R&D, and in health care itself–driven first and foremost by economic growth. At present, the simple fact is that economies on both sides of the Atlantic need to create jobs and growth … and freer trade is a great way to do that.

Reality: The TAFTA study most frequently touted by TAFTA proponents projected that, in the most optimistic scenario the authors could envision, the deal might generate a degree of growth smaller than that delivered by the most recent version of the iPhone.  And to generate this tiny growth, the study assumed a widespread curtailing of health, environmental, financial and other protections (and assumed no costs from such loss of safeguards). Furthermore, there is zero evidence that extending patent terms and lowering patent standards, as the pharmaceutical industry seeks, leads to job growth.

These realities are only a small sample of what Mr. Lechleister and other Big Pharma elite hope to attain through a secretly-negotiated EU-U.S. FTA. He fails to even mention in his piece how controversial investment provisions proposed for the deal would empower foreign companies to “sue” governments through international tribunals over rules and regulations that they perceive as undermining their expected future profits. In fact, that’s precisely what Lilly did when it was upset that Canadian courts found that Lilly had not satisfied the legal criteria to earn patents on two medicines. As mentioned, Lilly is using the same provision under NAFTA to demand $500 million in compensation from Canadian taxpayers. Perhaps Mr. Lechleiter was having trouble thinking of a way to translate that reality into an innocuous sounding claim.

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Chamber of Commerce Uses “Weird Facts” to Claim a $106 Billion Trade Deficit Isn’t There

Eyes on Trade - 19 September, 2014 - 00:20

The Chamber of Commerce is a place of magic.  For its latest trick, the corporate alliance tried to make a $106 billion trade deficit disappear.

The Chamber took to its blog last week to highlight for readers “One Weird Fact About the Trade Deficit No One Has Noticed.”  Here’s the claimed “fact”: “in 2012 — for the 20 countries with which the United States has entered into a free-trade agreement (FTA) — the trade deficit vanished.”

A disappearing U.S. trade deficit with our FTA partners?  That’s not just weird – it’s incredible.  As in, not credible. 

Want to know why “no one has noticed” this oddity?  Because it didn’t happen. 

In 2012 the U.S. trade deficit with FTA partners topped $106 billion.  That includes trade in goods and services.  (If you just count goods, the deficit was $178 billion.) 

And that mammoth FTA trade deficit is not “vanishing.”  The estimated U.S. trade deficit with FTA partners in 2013 is exactly the same: $106 billion. 

Indeed, the aggregate U.S. goods trade deficit with FTA partners has actually increased by more than $147 billion since the FTAs were implemented. In contrast, the aggregate deficit with all non-FTA countries has decreased by more than $130 billion since 2006 (the median entry date of existing FTAs).

The Chamber goes on to claim, “The United States has recorded a trade surplus in manufactured goods with its FTA partner countries for each of the past five years.”  The opposite is true.  The U.S. has run a major trade deficit in manufactured goods with its FTA partners in each of the last five years.  The average FTA manufacturing trade deficit during this period exceeded $48 billion. Last year, it topped $51 billion.

How does the Chamber claim to not see glaring FTA trade deficits?  By using some “weird facts” of its own. 

The Chamber distorts the data by counting “foreign exports” as “U.S. exports.”  Foreign exports are foreign-made goods that pass through the United States without alteration before being re-exported abroad.  Along the way, they support zero U.S. production jobs.  And yet, the Chamber includes foreign-made exports alongside U.S.-made exports as if they had the same value for U.S. workers.

Doing so dramatically deflates the size of the actual U.S. trade deficit with FTA partners.  By errantly including foreign exports, the 2012 goods trade deficit with FTA partners can be made to look less than 40 percent of its actual size ($71 billion vs. the true deficit of $178 billion).  The distortion was even worse in 2013, when the actual FTA goods trade deficit was nearly three times as large as the distorted deficit with foreign exports included ($67 billion vs. the true deficit of $180 billion). 

The graph below shows how this single data trick allows the Chamber to claim that a $106 billion FTA trade deficit has disappeared.  As the administration contemplates expanding the old deficit-ridden FTA model via the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, it seems that we should be looking at the actual evidence from past FTAs, not illusions. 


A footnote on data availability: services data are not available for some FTA countries, particularly the smaller economies.  The missing data were not included in either the Chamber’s figures or those reported above.  Also, while the Chamber did not report figures for 2013 due to a claimed lack of available services data for that year, 2013 services data is actually available for all but two of the FTA partners for which 2012 data were available.  For those two countries, services data for 2013 has been extrapolated based on observed growth trends.

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Sachs on TPP: "This is a NAFTA Treaty Writ Large"

Eyes on Trade - 16 September, 2014 - 14:36

"These are largely industry- and lobby-driven activities. They are not yet in any way proved to be in the interest of American people, and this is a matter of significant concern.  I don’t understand how something of such vast significance for billions of people could even presume to be treated in this manner." 

That's the take on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) from Jeffrey Sachs -- prominent economist, Columbia University professor, and Earth Institute director.

Prof. Sachs lambasted the proposed deals on Wednesday at a Forum on Free Trade Agreements, hosted by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. Other speakers who criticized the pacts and called for a new trade agreement model included Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, K.J. Hertz of AARP, Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Thea Lee of the AFL-CIO, and Debbie Barker of the Center for Food Safety.  

Check out this video of their incisive critiques of hte TPP and TAFTA.  Excerpts from Prof. Sachs' remarks follow. 

  

 Excerpts from Prof. Jeffrey Sachs on the TPP and TAFTA (also known as TTIP): 

TRANSPARENCY: The fact that the public is not engaged means that we should worry because we do know that when things are managed in secret, as these negotiations have been, it’s the organized and powerful interests that by far dominate the proceedings. These are largely industry- and lobby-driven activities. They are not yet in any way proved to be in the interest of American people, and this is a matter of significant concern.  I don’t understand how something of such vast significance for billions of people could even presume to be treated in this manner. One could imagine that negotiations over very specific tariff rates or very specific numerical clauses in some of these chapters could be held privately. But the idea that the main text around issues as broad as investor protection, dispute settlement, taxation, financial flows, intellectual property, would be done secretly, is shocking actually to me. But we’re talking about the basic rules of the international economy for the three major regions of the world. There is no reason in the world I can see for this text not to be public, not to be publically vetted, and not to be updated over time.

WRONG TRADE AGREEMENT MODEL: [W]hen President Obama talks about TPP and TTIP being 21st century trade agreements, the starting point should be that the phenomena of globalization more generally, the extent of financial crises, the growing environmental catastrophe worldwide of climate change and loss of biodiversity, the crises of international disease (such as we now have with Ebola in West Africa) need to be not only considered as footnotes. And they’re not even that in any way. They need to be in the forefront of our international economic relations…And in that sense I can’t support either of these negotiations with what I see now. I think that they would distract us from the more important global issues. I don’t think they rise close to the standard of being 21st century trade and investment agreements, not even close. They are very much 20th century agreements which were already out of date by the time they were negotiated. This is a NAFTA treaty writ large, or this is the same negotiation that we’ve had in many other cases.

TPP AND TTIP AS INVESTEMT PROTECTION AGREEMENTS, NOT TRADE PACTS: [T]these proposed agreements are mostly investor protection agreements, rather than trade agreements. There are trade elements in them, but this is mostly about investor protection: investor protection of property rights of investors, of prerogatives of investors, of IP of investors, of the regulatory environment of investors, and so forth. Recognizing that, we have some reasons to support some of these issues, but a lot of reasons for worry, because it’s not true that everything that is in the investor’s interest is in the worker’s interest. Its’ not true that everything that’s in the investor’s interest is in the broad interest of the American people or the people in host countries where the American investment may be going, or in the same way, investment that could be coming into this country. So we’re talking about mainly investment rules. And trade, which is already quite liberalized in the straightforward trade manner, doesn’t change all that much from what we know of these treaties. These are basically not trade agreements. They are investment agreements.

INVESTOR-STATE: [T]he whole issue of investor-state dispute settlement:  to my mind, it is quite alarming that the administration seems until this day to be pushing something which more and more observers, participants, legal scholars view as out of control…And the problem with this is that it creates an extra-legal venue for arbitration that has proven in many investment treaties in recent years to be highly deleterious for basic government regulatory processes and especially around issues of health, safety, environment, and other issues. The mechanism proposed here which is already part of many bilateral treaties and some multilateral investment treaties — is giving more and more power to investors to challenge general government regulatory actions. Not breach of specific investment contracts, but general regulatory and legislative actions on the claim that those general regulatory or legislative actions are against the interests of the investors and somehow therefore violate the implicit standards or guarantees that these investors have vis-à-vis the host countries. In other words, standards of general applicability against smoking or for environmental protection, or for taxation of natural resources and so forth are now coming under challenge in these investor-state dispute arbitration panels and forcing governments — the host governments — to back down or rescind or, in the face of a lost arbitration, to cancel laws of general applicability, and therefore to lose the sovereign right to pursue national interest at the face of investor interest. …As far as I know the United States government continues to press this clause today.  I regard that alone as reason to oppose both of these treaties. If this remains in place, it is absolutely in the wrong direction. And, these clauses have proven to be increasingly dangerous and I’ve seen publicly no response to this at all. 

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No Time to Lose: 147 Studies Supporting Public Health Action to Reduce Antibiotic Overuse in Food Animals*

Language:  English Author(s) (external):  Jenny Jia File:  2012_11_08_AntibioticsBiliography_DW_JL_long_hyperlinks.pdf 147 Studies Supporting Public Health Action to Reduce Antibiotic Overuse in Food Animals*

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TPP: Limiting the U.S. Government’s Ability to Control Rising Drug Costs

Eyes on Trade - 28 August, 2014 - 20:06

This is the third post in a three-part series on how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could increase medicine prices in the United States.  Click here for the first post's introduction to the problem, and here for the second post's outline of new rights that the TPP would give to Big Pharma. 

A leaked draft TPP annex with the Orwellian title “Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Healthcare Technologies” would set broad limits on governments’ prerogatives to negotiate or mandate lower drug prices, including for taxpayer-funded programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ and military health programs. Pushed by U.S. negotiators, these proposed TPP rules would conflict with existing and proposed policies to reduce healthcare costs for seniors, military families and the poor.

Rolling back medicine cost savings for U.S. veterans:

The U.S. government uses automatic price reductions to secure lower drug costs for U.S. veterans who benefit from health programs administered by VA. U.S. law allows VA to access drug prices at 24 percent below average market prices, and requires drug companies to offer these reduced prices for VA-administered programs as a condition for their medicines being included in other government health programs.

However, this cost-saving mechanism could run afoul of the proposed TPP annex, which requires government drug reimbursements to be based on “competitive, market-derived prices,” or on a system that “appropriately recognizes[] the value” of the drugs. The government-mandated price-setting system for VA programs would be subject to challenge as not being “competitive” and “market-derived.” VA-secured prices that fall significantly below the prices of patented drugs also could be challenged under the TPP as not “appropriately recognizing” drugs’ value. These TPP provisions, if enacted, could expose the U.S. government to challenges before international tribunals for not rolling back policies that cut healthcare costs for veterans and taxpayers.

Threatening policies that make medicines more affordable for the poor:

U.S. federal and state governments currently use several methods to tamp down the prices of drugs provided to low-income families through Medicaid. For example, the U.S. federal government requires drug corporations, as a condition for having their drugs covered by Medicaid, to sign discount agreements that oblige the firms to provide the state and federal governments with rebates to lower the cost of the drugs. These rebates have resulted in a 45 percent reduction in Medicaid spending for brand-name drugs.

State governments can further cut costs by, for example, negotiating lower prices with drug companies in return for placing their medicines on a Preferred Drug List (PDL) – a list of medicines that the state’s Medicaid program will cover without requiring prior authorization from a doctor. States have calculated substantial cost savings from usage of PDLs: New York saved an estimated $381 million in one recent year, while Texas saved an estimated $115 million and Utah saved an estimated $434 million.

Such Medicaid cost containment measures could be challenged under the TPP. Leveraging the government’s buying power to set prices could be attacked as not being “market-derived” or as “appropriately recognizing” the value of patented drugs. Some argue that the TPP provisions would primarily target federal policies, while Medicaid is administered by state governments. But even if limited to federal policies, the pact’s proposed terms directly contradict Medicaid’s federal cost control efforts, such as requiring drug firms to sign discount agreements. And state-level tools like PDLs could still be challenged under the TPP as part of a program created and controlled by the federal government.

Challenging Obamacare cost reductions for seniors:

Before implementation of the landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, seniors faced a gap in Medicare drug coverage. After passing a given threshold of drug costs, Medicare beneficiaries went from having to pay 25 percent of a drug’s cost to having to pay 100 percent out of pocket, until reaching a second threshold at which Medicare again covered most costs. Closing this “doughnut hole” was a key objective of the Affordable Care Act, which required drug manufacturers to offer a 50 percent drug price discount to Medicare beneficiaries within the coverage gap if they wanted their drugs to continue being covered under Medicare. As a result of this discount and a gradual increase in Medicare coverage, Medicare beneficiaries within the coverage gap were only responsible for 47.5 percent of brand-name drug costs in 2013 and will be responsible for only 25 percent by 2020.

But under the TPP, the requirement for drug companies to halve the price of their drugs within the coverage gap could be challenged for neither reflecting “competitive market-derived” prices nor “appropriately recognizing[] the value” of patented drugs. The Obama administration’s TPP healthcare annex thus threatens the cost savings that the administration’s own signature health law has provided to seniors.

Chilling future reforms that could further reduce healthcare costs for retirees:

Governments in countries ranging from New Zealand to Japan have kept healthcare costs in check by leveraging the government’s large purchasing power for taxpayer-funded public health programs to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical corporations. In contrast, for Medicare, which covers more than 50 million Americans, the U.S. government is barred by law from directly negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical corporations.

Many policymakers, healthcare professionals and even President Obama have called for changes to this law so that the government could ask drug companies to provide lower prices in exchange for getting subsidized access to millions of Medicare recipients. Other reform proposals, including legislation now pending, would have the federal government set maximum prices for drugs covered by Medicare (as it does for health programs provided to veterans) or require that drug companies provide drug rebates (similar to the rebates required under Medicaid). Indeed, the White House itself has proposed requiring drug companies to pay Medicaid-like rebates to providers for treating low-income Medicare beneficiaries. The administration estimates this would deliver $117 billion in savings over 10 years.

However, the TPP presents an obstacle to these proposals to control soaring Medicare costs. All of the above-mentioned policies involve direct government intervention in price setting, conflicting with the TPP requirement for market-derived prices, and inviting challenges for failing to “appropriately recognize” the value of patented drugs. 

Undermining drug discounts for underserved communities:

Under a program known as 340B, the U.S. federal government enables nongovernmental health centers – including migrant health centers, homeless health centers, children’s hospitals and family planning centers – to offer their diverse constituencies more affordable drugs. The federal government requires pharmaceutical firms to offer discounted drug prices to 340B-covered health centers via rebates, as a condition for having their drugs covered by Medicaid.

As a federally-run program that mandates below-market prices, the program could be challenged as a violation of the proposed TPP rules requiring drug prices to be market-derived or to reflect the value of patented drugs. In addition, the leaked TPP annex would require the U.S. government to allow pharmaceutical corporations to appeal drug pricing decisions such as the rebate amounts set under the 340B program, though they have very limited appeal rights for such decisions under U.S. domestic law. The TPP would thus give pharmaceutical corporations a new means of challenging 340B policies that reduce drug prices for underserved populations. 

Categorie: Planet Not For Sale

Whose Century Is It?: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Food and the “21st-Century Trade Agreement”

Language:  English Author(s) (external):  Adam Needelman File:  2014_08_22_TPP_AN.pdf The future of trade deals? In the final year of the George W. Bush presidency, the U.S. entered into negotiations to establish a gargantuan new trade deal. The negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently involve 12 countries—Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States—together comprising 40 percent of the world economy and a third of global trade.1 In pro-TPP rhetoric, the deal is marketed as a “21st-century trade agreement.”2 But the deal isn’t as futuristic as its boosters want you to believe; rather, it’s a massive double down on the strategies and philosophies of...

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TPP: Expansive Rights for Big Pharma, Expensive Medicines for U.S. Consumers

Eyes on Trade - 26 August, 2014 - 18:59

This is the second in a three-part series on how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could increase medicine prices in the United States.  Click here for the first post's introduction to the problem. 

Leaked draft intellectual property texts for the TPP reveal broad monopoly protections for pharmaceutical corporations, which elevate the costs of medicines and medical procedures. Inserting these sweeping corporate privileges into the pact would undermine U.S. efforts to make healthcare more affordable.

Some of the leaked TPP monopoly protections for Big Pharma could require scrapping the Obama administration proposal to save more than $4 billion on biologic medicines. Biologics – the latest generation of drugs to combat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases – are exceptionally expensive, costing approximately 22 times more than conventional medicines.

Under U.S. law, pharmaceutical corporations enjoy monopoly protections for biologic drugs, even in the absence of a patent, for a 12-year period of “exclusivity.” During these 12 years, the Food and Drug Administration is prohibited from approving more affordable versions of the drugs, inflating the cost of these life-saving medicines as pharmaceutical firms accrue monopoly profits.

To lower the exorbitant prices and the resulting burden on programs like Medicare and Medicaid, the Obama administration’s 2015 budget would reduce the exclusivity period for biologics from 12 to seven years. The administration estimates this would save taxpayers more than $4.2 billion over the next decade just for federal programs.

However, at the request of Big Pharma, U.S. trade negotiators are demanding the 12-year exclusivity requirement for biologics in the TPP. This would lock into place pharmaceutical firms’ lengthy monopolies here at home. That is, Obama administration negotiators would effectively scrap the administration’s own proposal to save billions in unnecessary healthcare costs and lock in rules that would forbid future presidents or Congresses from doing so.

Investor Privileges: Empowering Big Pharma to Directly Attack U.S. Health Policies

Another TPP text - the leaked draft investment chapter - reveals that the deal would grant foreign firms the power to skirt domestic courts, drag the U.S. government before extrajudicial tribunals, and directly challenge patent laws and medicine cost containment policies as violations of their new TPP foreign investor “rights.”

The tribunals, comprised of three private attorneys, would be authorized to order unlimited taxpayer compensation for domestic policies perceived as undermining pharmaceutical corporations’ “expected future profits.” Effectively, this system would elevate individual pharmaceutical firms to the same status as the countries that may sign the TPP, empowering such firms to privately enforce the public agreement.

Such extreme “investor-state” rules have been included in past U.S. “free trade” agreements, forcing taxpayers to pay firms more than $430 million for toxics bans, land-use rules, water and timber policies and more. Just under U.S. pacts, more than $38 billion is pending in corporate claims against patent policies, pollution cleanup requirements, climate and energy laws, and other public interest polices.

This includes a $500 million claim that U.S. pharmaceutical corporation Eli Lilly launched in 2013 against Canada’s legal standard for granting patents. The firm is demanding compensation because Canadian courts enforcing Canadian patent law ruled that two of Eli Lilly’s medicines failed to meet the Canadian standard to obtain a patent, which requires demonstrating a drug’s promised utility. This is the first attempt by a patent-holding pharmaceutical firm to use the extraordinary investor privileges provided by U.S. “trade” agreements as a tool to push for greater monopoly patent protections.

The TPP would vastly expand the investor-state threat to U.S. public health policies, given the thousands of corporations based in TPP countries that would be newly empowered to launch cases against U.S. laws on behalf of any of their more than 14,000 U.S. subsidiaries

Stay tuned for post #3 on yet another way that the TPP could limit the U.S. government's ability to control rising drug costs. 

Categorie: Planet Not For Sale

TPP: The “Trade” Deal that Could Inflate Your Healthcare Bill

Eyes on Trade - 21 August, 2014 - 18:11

Much has been said about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens to raise medicine prices in TPP developing countries, thanks to the deal's proposed expansion of monopoly protections for pharmaceutical corporations.  

Less has been said about the proposed TPP rules that could increase medicine prices in the United States.  

Americans pay far more for healthcare than people in any other developed country, even though U.S. life expectancy falls below the average for developed countries. A major contributor to our bloated healthcare costs is the high prices for medicines in the United States. According to the Government Accountability Office, U.S. drug prices increased more than 70 percent faster than prices for other healthcare goods and services over 2006-2010. As a result, millions of Americans cannot afford the medicines they need to live healthy lives.

Soaring drug prices also drive up the amount that taxpayers must pay to fund public health programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and programs covering the U.S. military and veterans. Indeed, rising healthcare costs are the number one contributor to the U.S. government’s projected long-term budget deficits.

To try to combat the twin problems of unaffordable healthcare and unsustainable deficits, U.S. federal and state governments already use several tools to tamp down the cost of drugs – for Medicare, Medicaid and for military healthcare under TRICARE and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Many more such cost containment policies have been proposed.

Yet, the TPP threatens to chill such proposals and even roll back existing policies to rein in exorbitant medicine prices. Leaked draft TPP texts – an intellectual property chapter, investment chapter and healthcare annex – contain expansive rules that would constrain the ability of the U.S. government to reduce medicine prices. Getting these terms into the TPP was a key objective of large U.S. pharmaceutical corporations that stand to reap monopoly profits from expansive patent terms and restrictions on government cost containment efforts. This incentive may explain why pharmaceutical corporations have lobbied Congress for the TPP more than any other industry.

The TPP’s threats to the affordability of U.S. healthcare have spurred major groups that have not traditionally taken part in trade policy debates to warn against the TPP’s provisions. For example, AARP – representing more than 37 million Americans over the age of 50 – joined unions and consumer groups in a November 2013 letter to President Obama to express “deep concern” that texts proposed for the TPP would “limit[] the ability of states and the federal government to moderate escalating prescription drug, biologic drug and medical device costs in public programs.” The groups concluded that the TPP could “undermine[] access to affordable health care for millions in the United States and around the world.”

Stay tuned for post #2 on specific TPP threats to affordable U.S. healthcare: Expansive Rights for Big Pharma, Expensive Medicines for Consumers.

Categorie: Planet Not For Sale

Tar Sands: How Trade Rules Surrender Sovereignty and Extend Corporate Rights

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Patrick Tsai File:  2014_08_21_TarsSands_PT_f.pdf Introduction Neoliberalism exacerbates climate change and codifies the subjugation of indigenous communities through trade agreement rules that allow corporations to control natural resources and challenge government regulations. Liberalized trade and economic regimes promote policies that incentivize unrestricted extraction and access to resources without adequate consideration for maintaining social and environmental integrity. These policies result in systemic mismanagement of natural resources. Currently, free trade negotiations on energy focus primarily on unconventional fuels, characterized by notably higher life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than conventional oil. Tar sands are a form of...

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Maine Agriculture and Food Systems in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Language:  English File:  2014_07_07_MaineTradePolicyAssessment_KHK.pdf Executive Summary The negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) began with a series of bold assertions that it would serve to jump start the two ailing economies, resulting in rising economic growth and job creation on both sides of the Atlantic. Tariffs are already quite low. The bigger challenge—and the real target—is the very different approaches to regulation. Past experiences with free trade, such as those under the North American Free Trade Agreement, give reasons for concern. It is impossible to accurately predict the real impacts of changes in tariff and non-tariff barriers on specific sectors of agricultural production in Maine. The bigger question may be how the changes that could result from TTIP would affect the state’s food...

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Advocacy = Results: Proposal to Disguise Offshoring Shelved after Groundswell of Opposition

Eyes on Trade - 12 August, 2014 - 15:00

Can one person make a difference?  Hard to say.  But apparently 26,000 of them can. 

About a month ago we warned of an administration proposal to reclassify U.S. corporations that offshore their manufacturing as “factoryless goods” manufacturers.  Calling Apple a “manufacturer” – though its iPhones are made in Foxconn factories in China – defies common sense.  But why does it matter? 

Because it would mask the erosion of U.S. manufacturing incentivized by offshoring-friendly policies, including a raft of unfair trade deals.  The Orwellian proposal would undermine efforts to replace more-of-the-same policies with a fair trade model. 

Under the proposal, reported U.S. “manufacturing” jobs and wages would balloon overnight, as brand managers and programmers would suddenly be counted as “manufacturing” workers.  The broad reclassification initiative would also deceptively deflate the large U.S. manufacturing trade deficit.  U.S. imports of made-in-China iPhones would not be tallied as manufactured goods imports but as imports of Foxconn's “services,” while iPhones exported from China to, say, Europe would actually be rebranded as “U.S.” manufacturing exports.  

During an official period to comment on the proposal, Public Citizen, many labor groups, and other allies invited people to send their two cents to the administration.  The response was overwhelming. 

In short order, about 26,000 people filed comments in opposition to the “factoryless goods” proposal.  The last time the administration tried to implement this proposal, they received 10 comments.

This past Friday, the administration responded.  This announcement appeared in the Federal Register:

“Given these initial research results and the large number of public comments submitted on the topic of FGPs [Factoryless Goods Producers], OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] here announces that the FGP recommendation will not be implemented in 2017.” 

If you submitted a comment, congratulations.  According to the administration, your voice of reason contributed to a chorus that helped convince the administration to rethink the wisdom of categorizing firms that do not manufacture anything as U.S. manufacturers.  Advocacy, as it turns out, can work. 

Please place your hand above your back and pat vigorously.  But don’t break out the champagne glasses.

Thanks to the groundswell of public opposition (and the contributions of some clear-minded naysayers within the administration), the “factoryless goods” proposal has been shelved.  But it has not been dustbinned. 

OMB makes clear that the “factoryless goods” fantasy will likely emerge again, albeit in a different form:

“Without the deadline imposed by the 2017 NAICS revisions, the relevant statistical agencies will now have the opportunity to complete the additional research, testing, and evaluation needed to determine the feasibility of developing methods for the consistent identification and classification of FGPs that are accurate and reliable. This process will also be informed by questions raised in public comments. Results of this research, testing, and evaluation could lead to a different FGP proposal for consideration or implementation.

As "factoryless goods" proponents regroup and decide what to do next, we will remain vigilant.  Future bouts of pressure will likely be needed to keep our data, and the policymaking that it informs, free of distortion.  As we push to change our trade policies, we will need to keep pushing against efforts to simply change our numbers. 

But for now, kudos.  

Categorie: Planet Not For Sale

From GMO to SMO: how synthetic biology evades regulation

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Dr. Steve Suppan File:  2014_07_18_Synbio_SS.pdf Products derived from synthetic biology (popularly called synbio), a rapidly growing new technology, are beginning to enter the marketplace without a regulatory framework in place that provides for pre-market safety assessment of its unique risks to health and the environment. In the very near future, a host of food and agricultural products could be on the marketplace without labeling and in natural ecosystems without biosafety controls or indeed, understanding about the effect of Synthetically Modified Organisms (SMOs) on biological diversity. This fact sheet gives a short overview of synbio, a few of its applications to food, agriculture and consumer products, and an explanation of the U.S....

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Central America Crisis Belies CAFTA’s Empty Promises

Eyes on Trade - 1 August, 2014 - 18:07

 

“…[the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is] the best immigration, anti-gang, and anti-drug policy at our disposal…”

--Representative Tom Davis, July 27, 2005 – one day before Congress passed CAFTA

“Something must be happening that children and their mothers are now leaving for the United States in busloads…People are saying, ‘There’s no future here.’”

--Miriam Miranda, Honduran human rights leader and recent kidnapping survivor, July 30, 2014

 

Nine years ago this week, the polemical Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) was passed by the House of Representatives…in the dead of night…by a single vote.  

CAFTA proponents promised the deal would reduce gang and drug-related violence in Central America, boost economic development, and diminish the factors pushing Central Americans to migrate to the United States. 

Such promises already sounded hollow when they were voiced in 2005.  Today, as thousands of Central American children leave their homes and risk their lives to try to make it to the United States, CAFTA’s promises have proven tragically empty.  

When trying to secure passage for CAFTA’s expansion of the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) model to five Central American nations and the Dominican Republic, the Bush administration and corporate lobbyists could not rely on the standard promises of job creation and deficit reduction that had proven false under NAFTA.  Instead, they launched a barrage of political arm-twisting and horse-trading to convince members of Congress to vote against the anti-CAFTA opinions of their constituents.  

Many CAFTA backers also resorted to selling the deal as a pathway to peace and prosperity for Central America.  Here is Representative Tom Davis (R-Va.) speaking on the House floor in favor of CAFTA on July 27, 2005:

“…we need to understand that CAFTA is more than just a trade pact. It's a signal of U.S. commitment to democracy and prosperity for our neighbors. And it's the best immigration, anti-gang, and anti-drug policy at our disposal…Want to fight the ever-more-violent MS-13 gang activity originating in El Salvador but prospering in Northern Virginia? Pass CAFTA …Want to begin to ebb the growing flow of illegal immigrants from Central America? Pass CAFTA.

One day later, Congress passed CAFTA.

Nine years later, gang and drug-related violence in Central America has reached record highs and the “growing flow” of immigrants from Central America has surged.

On Wednesday, Miriam Miranda, coordinator of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak to congressional staff about the rampant violence and unrelenting poverty in her home country and its neighbors. Miriam spoke not only of the skyrocketing homicides and widespread gang and paramilitary control in Honduras, but the economic instability undergirding such violence.

The issue is not theoretical for Miriam – just two weeks ago she survived an attempted kidnapping by armed men.

I asked Miriam what she would say, if given the opportunity, to the members of Congress who had promised CAFTA would spur development and reduce violence and migration pressures in Central America. She responded:

“It’s more than evident with what has happened in the last eight to nine months – this massive exit from Central America – that these policies that they have implemented are completely mistaken. They don’t respond to our needs…We have to question this model of development – development for whom?” 

Not only did CAFTA fail to stem violence and migration from Central America as Rep. Davis and other proponents promised. The deal appears to have actually contributed to the economic instability feeding the region’s increase in violence and forced migration.

That’s the conclusion reached by the 67 members of Congress’ Progressive Caucus, who included CAFTA in their recent summary of the root causes of the refugee crisis occurring along the U.S.-Mexico border: “free trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) have led to the displacement of workers and subsequent migration from these countries.”

How has CAFTA led to displacement and migration?  Under CAFTA, family farmers in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have been inundated with subsidized agricultural imports – mainly grains – from U.S. agribusinesses. Agricultural imports from the United States in those three CAFTA countries have risen 78 percent since the deal went into effect. 

While agricultural exports to Central America represent a small slice of U.S. agricultural corporations’ business, they present a large threat to the livelihoods of small-scale Central American farmers who cannot compete with highly subsidized and mechanized U.S. firms. When Mexico experienced a similar surge in agricultural imports under NAFTA, more than 2 million Mexican farmers and agricultural workers lost their livelihoods and migration to the United States doubled.  

In the lead-up to CAFTA, development groups like Oxfam warned of such displacement, stating that when considering the impacts on Central American rice production alone, CAFTA threatened the livelihoods of up to 1.5 million people in the region.  Central American immigrant advocacy groups like CARECEN, CONGUATE, and SANN also raised such concerns early in the CAFTA negotiating process, but were ignored by the Bush administration.

Certainly the economic instability and violence plaguing Central America, and the resulting surge in migration to the United States, cannot be pegged on CAFTA alone. The causes of the crisis are manifold, and many have been amply discussed.  But though CAFTA did not singlehandedly spark this fire, it appears to have contributed to the kindling.

And clearly, CAFTA has utterly failed to deliver on the far-fetched promises used by Rep. Davis and other proponents to sell the controversial deal to a skeptical Congress back in 2005.  I wish Representative Davis, and all those who voted for CAFTA, would have been there on Wednesday to hear Miriam’s words.  

I wish the same for the members of the Obama administration who are now pushing to expand the NAFTA/CAFTA trade model across the Pacific under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  As with CAFTA, some are trying to sell that deal with rosy promises that it will spur development in TPP countries. 

In the words of Miriam, development for whom?  

Categorie: Planet Not For Sale

Leaked document reveals US-EU trade agreement threatens public health, food safety

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Andrew Ranallo Dr. Steve Suppan File:  2014_07_24_TTIPLeak_PR.pdf WASHINGTON D.C. – A draft chapter of the U.S-EU trade agreement leaked today by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) reveals public health and food safety could be at risk, according to an accompanying analysis. The leaked chapter concerns Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues—those surrounding food safety and animal and plant health—in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated. Only TTIP negotiators and security cleared advisors, mostly corporate representatives, can read and comment on draft negotiating texts. According to the IATP analysis accompanying release of the...

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Analysis of the draft Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) chapter on food safety, and animal and plant health issues (proposed by the European Commission, as of June 27, 2014)

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Dr. Steve Suppan File:  2014_09_02_TTIP_SPS_Analysis.pdf Trade agreements have a profound influence on how regulations to protect public health and how we produce food are developed, implemented and enforced or not enforced. U.S. and EU food safety regulations in the U.S. and the EU often set the bar for such standards around the world. There is much at stake in the wording of trade agreements, but remarkably, draft negotiations texts remained undisclosed to the public affected by the trade related food safety chapters in those texts. Instead of a public debate about appropriate protections for health and the type of agriculture we want, these negotiations are taking place behind closed doors, and heavily influenced by corporate trade advisors whose...

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Categorie: Planet Not For Sale