ILPS Commission 6
Agrarian reform and rights of peasants, farm workers and fisherfolk
The storm is coming.
Today, despite widespread protests, the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) will be signed by the 12 member countries in New Zealand. The mega-regional “free trade agreement” (FTA) negotiations had been kept in the shadows for almost a decade and had the text only made public last October 2015 while the annexes remain a secret. The massive 30-chapter deal contains provisions that would intensify global landgrabbing, dislocate the capacity for food sovereignty and impede rural and national development among underdeveloped and dependent states.
Dubbed as “WTO1 on steroids”, the lucrative deal covers stricter rules and provisions on intensified trade liberalization, investment protection, international dispute settlement and management of government assets among others. When enforced, the TPP would be the largest FTA yet, covering 40% of the world’s economy and setting a precedent for 21st century FTAs. Combined with escalating rotational military presence and reinforcing military alliances in the Pacific region, TPP plays a key role in the US pivot to Asia – encircling China and protecting the US’ geopolitical interests.
The TPP’s implications on agriculture and the rural sectors are beyond far reaching. Global landgrabbing would spiral as the TPP fortifies the power of transnational corporations to own and control lands, as a presupposition in signing. Lands will be legally sullied, displacing thousands of farmers, for agro-fuels and cash-crop plantations. Also, as the TPP imposes the pre-crisis model of extreme financial deregulation to signatory countries, landgrabbing for financialization will also heighten. Huge corporations will have a spree at this as all trade barriers, tariff and non-tariff, will go, and as all restrictions in investments imposed by national governments will be frozen and rolled back.
Chronic hunger will be pervasive in TPP as it directly undermines the right and capacity to food sovereignty of underdeveloped and dependent states. Imperialism has always put the monopolization of agriculture and food in priority, even before the WTO. Numerous safeguards are in place in TPP for transnational agrochemical companies such as Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Cargill, etc. Stricter impositions on intellectual property rights (IPR) of seeds are in TPP. In effect, use of traditional seeds will be criminalized under the protection of patented seeds. Also, seeds imported from monopolies will be much costlier as the seed diversity in countries drop – a guarantee of exponential increase in profit.
To add, TPP will undermine the right of the signatory country to reject genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that they have not approved and to subject those GMOs to a prior risk assessment. This implies uninterrupted GMO trade to the benefit of producers of GMOs such as US and Canada.
Meanwhile, the local market will be flooded with heavily subsidized cheap agricultural imports from developed countries such as US and EU as trade barriers are taken down. These would under-price the local agricultural exports and dominate the local market, dislodging local farmers and producers as the country becomes more and more import reliant.
Another key feature of TPP is its impositions to hinder rural development and national industrialization of underdeveloped and dependent states. The TPP advocates the malevolent investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) model of the OECD2 where investors can sue governments while virtually restricting the reverse. TPP maintains that signatory countries must uphold and protect investor rights against public interest. ISDS provides that transnational companies can sue governments if they are “unduly favouring” the local agriculture to the detriment of transnational profits. Also, asserting public interest such as termination of contracts, market-denial, or new legislations for environmental, political, or developmental reasons counter to corporate power will be held against the signatory country. Moreover, TPP locks in privatization of state assets including government-owned and controlled corporations. This denationalization of industries and de-industrialization will only benefit the imperialist countries and will ultimately impede rural and national development, if not roll back.
More than a trade deal between the US and 11 Pacific Rim countries, TPP is a scheme to surge US imperialism’s hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region by trampling on and circumventing national economic borders. It bolsters corporate domination by locking in US-partisan safeguards for the further concentration of wealth to the world’s richest 1%, to the detriment of farmers, rural peoples and dependent and underdeveloped nations. TPP represents the renewed offensive of globalization – the unprecedented heightening of the exploitation of the working class and peoples of the world.
We therefore call upon all our member organizations, networks, farmers, fisherfolk, rural women, agricultural workers, and rural peoples of the world to fight TPP. Let us demand our governments not to sign this one-sided and anti-people deal. Let us brave the storm and fight the TPP and FTAs as imperialist tools of hegemony.
Fight the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement!
Fight the US pivot to Asia!