Late Monday night word trickled out that the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) was finalised. This trade agreement represents many of the darkest wishes of multi-national corporations intent on using regulatory capture in the United States to drive the global trade agenda. The text of the agreement is still secret and will not be released for perhaps another month1.
Civil society has been kept at arms length from the negotiations, with access to the draft texts only being granted to major corporations. The fact that the text is not immediately available gives us some insight into just how bad this agreement could be. We demand that the text be immediately published so the Australian people can see what has been negotiated on our behalf and judge whether this is something that will benefit all of us or just a wealthy few.
Much of what is known about the TPP has been exposed through leaks, painting a bleak picture for the future of signatory countries. The leaks indicate draconian intellectual property provisions, investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals and poor environmental and worker protections.
The ISDS tribunals elevate multi-national corporations above the legislatures of the signatory countries. By agreeing to this, the Coalition Government demonstrates that it is fundamentally anti-democratic, putting the profits of foreign corporations above Australians, Australian business and Australian democracy,” Mr Frew continued. “While we have yet to see the final text, the leaked drafts show a raft of terrible intellectual property measures designed to increase the costs of medicines, lock up patents for even longer and crack down on file-sharing. These provisions were rejected by the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties when it reviewed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement2 some years ago, one of the rare occasions a treaty has been halted by the Australian Parliament. We call on Parliament to show decency and common sense and oppose this agreement too.
The Australian Labor Party had, to its credit, opposed to the ISDS tribunal provisions when it was negotiating the TPP. Now that the TPP has been signed, presumably with ISDS tribunals largely intact (considering the touting of tobacco exemptions to ISDS as ‘a major victory for public health’), the Pirate Party calls upon the ALP to hold to its purported beliefs and oppose the ratification of the TPP on these grounds. The ALP must show a clear demarcation between itself and the Turnbull Coalition Government that is all-too willing to trade away important democratic protections in exchange for another trade deal feather in its cap.
The fact that to get ISDS through negotiations they had to carve out an exemption for one dangerous high-profile threat to public health, shows how inherently flawed the very concept of ISDS tribunals are. What protections will there be for citizens and consumers in the face of future threats to public health? Will there need to be years of negotiation to carve out exemptions if some future product is found to be carcinogenic before people can be protected from those who profit from that product?
Much of the agreement has little to do with free trade, and is instead about regulating trade to benefit the companies sitting around the negotiating table. While the Australian Government touts a range of supposed economic benefits of the TPP, without access to the actual text of the agreement we cannot be reassured that the government has not traded away important protections and safeguards in order to achieve agreement. We note that a United States Department of Agriculture report indicates that the net economic benefit to the Australian economy will be a 0 per cent gain in the GDP. For all the potential costs to the actual wellbeing of the Australian people as a result of this agreement, it is clear that the case for any supposed benefits have not yet been adequately made. Only after the Treaty has been made public should the Australian people and their elected representatives decide if the trade-offs are worth signing this otherwise secret backroom deal.
The Pirate Party is opposed to investor-state dispute settlement provisions. It is the Pirate Party’s policy that negotiations must be subject to oversight and public participation, and that they require a window for public participation and the availability of draft texts prior to signing.
The Pirate Party calls on federal politicians to stand up for Australia and recognise the negative effects this will have on our country.
Simon Frew, president, the Pirate Party