Protests have broken out in Peru, Chile, and Mexico since last week’s signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.
Around 1,500 people from Colectivo Dignidad, a youth moment concerned with defending human rights and creating spaces for personal, intellectual and social reflections, took to the streets of Lima on Thursday to demonstrate their discontent against Peruvian president, Ollanta Humala, who signed the agreement.
Students and members of other social movements moved along the main avenues of Lima with the aim of reaching Congress. However, police blocked the protesters and fired tear gas into the crowd during a series of clashes.
In Chile, one of the movements involved, Chile Better Without TPP (CMSTPP) said that the TPP “threatens human rights”. Many of the protesters voiced concern over the use of seeds, definitions of water, land, and national rights, and indigenous groups.
One of the coordinators of CMSTPP, Paulina Acevedo, spoke to TelesurTv to voice her concerns. “I want a country where our sovereignty and the sovereign rights of our population are protected, and not violated by corporations.” She went on to highlight concerns about “commercially secret treaties” in which information isn’t readily made available.
Mexico’s National Worker’s Union (SNTE) and other socialist movements have fervently shunned the agreement, citing there was little consultation with workers and spoke of how lives of people in the countryside will be affected.
SNTE is against the treaty as it was “negotiated without consultation, but also because it will bring serious consequences for Mexico, United States, Chile, Canada and Peru,” said one of the SNTE leaders in Mexico City’s iconic Zocalo.
In addition, further concerns were raised by Mexican Network of Action Against Free Trade (RMALC). They state the TPP deepens “food dependency, inequality, poverty, malnutrition, environmental degradation, and rural migration caused by NAFTA and government policies in favor of large agribusiness corporations and the green revolution model. Likewise, it would represent a serious threat to the rights of farmers to exchange their own seeds and grow their own food.”.
In summary RMALC concludes the real existence of the agreement is for the US to maintain its “hegemony” against the rise of the Chinese superpower.
The TPP is one of the world’s biggest multinational trade pacts, accounting for around 40% of the global economy. The agreement was signed on 4th February by ministers from the 12 participating nations in Auckland, New Zealand. Each participating nation now has two years to ratify the accord.
The stated focus of the pact lies in strengthening economic ties between the member states by reducing tariffs and thereby creating economic development within these new regulations.
Beyond tariff controls, the pact covers a range of issues, from workers’ rights to intellectual property protection in the 12 Pacific nations.
These far-reaching regulations have been at the heart of criticism of the trade deal, which many say will favour corporate interests over society, the environment, and even democracy.
In a publication by Alfred de Zayas, first independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order of the Human Rights Council for the UN, prior to the signing of the agreement, several pertinent questions were raised.
De Zayas affirmed that “trade is not an end in itself, but must be seen in the context of the international human rights regime, which imposes binding legal obligations on States. Trade agreements are not ‘stand-alone’ legal regimes, but must conform with fundamental principles of international law, including transparency and accountability. They must not delay, circumvent, undermine or make impossible the fulfilment of human rights treaty obligations.”
The Latin American representation comes from Chile, Mexico, and Peru.
Despite the controversy, President of the Council of Ministers of Peru, Pedro Catering, still believes “this is a great step forward for the economic development of Peru”.
Foreign Minister to Chile, Heraldo Munoz previously predicted “robust democratic discussion” in his South American nation, whilst interior minister, Jorge Burgos, defended the treaty, assuring that commercial agreements were “approved by the majority”.
However, economists and Nobel Prize laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman deem the trade agreement to be be detrimental to people’s quality of life, given the negations weren’t openly transparent.
The world health organisation expressed concern how the TPP could potentially limit the availability of accessible medicines in order to protect the patents of pharmaceutical companies.
This would potentially medicines involved with cancer treatment, medicines affecting HIV/AIDS cures. This lead Javier Llamoza from International Action for Heath (AISREDGE) to assert that the “TPP doesn’t respect human rights”.