By TJ Acena, PQ Monthly May 12, 2014
You may have heard that wealthy Hollywood types are boycotting the Beverly Hills Hotel (assuming you follow news about places only rich Hollywood types can afford to stay). This is because the hotel is owned by an investment firm that is owned by the Sultan of Brunei. The Sultan is implementing Sharia law in the tiny kingdom, which would make it legal to stone adulterers and LGBTQ people to death and place harsh sentences on women who have abortions or become pregnant outside of marriage.
This on its own is upsetting enough, but I came across an article on the Huffington Post that pointed out that Brunei would be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and this recent controversy could threaten the TPP.
What is the TransPacific Partnership? Well it is similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement and establishes a free trade zone around the Pacific Ocean, encompassing (currently) fourteen countries, 800 million people, and 40 percent of the global economy. President Obama has been trying hard to get this passed but it has come up against some opposition for some very good reasons:
- From Médecins Sans Frontières: The TPP would establish strong intellectual property regimes that would extend patent monopolies on medications, delaying the production of generic drugs, including HIV medication. This would especially hurt people in developing countries at the expense of pharmaceutical companies, who have worked with the US government to help create the TPP.
- From The Nation: Text from the Stop Online Piracy Act appears in the TPP. You might remember that Internet activist Aaron Swartz lead the public campaign to stop SOPA.
- From Democracy Now!: The TPP is creates trade agreements similar to NAFTA, which hasn’t had the most amazing effects on the economies or the environments of the US or Mexico. According to Public Citizen Oregon lost over 18,000 manufacturing jobs (10%) during the NAFTA and WTO period (1994 – 2013)
- From Democracy Now!: It would make it easier for corporations to sue countries for lost profits. To use a recent example: In El Salvador the government shut down a Canadian mining firm after it dumped poisonous chemicals into the drinking water. Under the trade agreement the company sued the country for $315 million. Hypothetically this could also allow Brunei to sue the United States for lost profits over the boycott of the Beverly Hill Hotel.
So we have a trade deal which could keep developing countries from getting HIV medication, curtail internet freedom, affects the global economy in ways we can’t imagine yet, give immense power to corporations, and we would enter into this agreement with a country (exercising its religious freedom) that thinks (even if the standards of proof are high) that it is OK to stone LGBTQ people to death or put women in prison for getting an abortion.
Now I hope that all this attention does change the mind of the Sultan of Brunei and stops the TPP.