As partner countries gathered in Canberra to hold more secret negotiations over the TPP, speakers at a protest outside Parliament House pointed out what is wrong with it. 22 Oct 2014

 The TPP: whats wrong with it?

By Pauline Westwood*

The TPP is a controversial and highly secretive “free trade” deal currently being pushed by big corporations and negotiated behind closed doors by officials from the United States and 11 other countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, with a couple of other countries about to join.

The three letters stand for Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.

 MPs from Greens and Labor, academics, Medecins Sans Frontieres and the general public gather outside Parliament House Canberra on 20 Oct 2014 to protest the proposal that Australia signs the TPP agreement.
MPs from Greens and Labor, academics, Medecins Sans Frontieres and the general public gather outside Parliament House Canberra on 20 Oct 2014 to protest the proposal that Australia signs the TPP agreement.

The agreement is more about increasing the power of foreign corporations than free trade. At the stroke of a pen, this deal could:

  • Shed even more Australian jobs in the manufacturing and other sectors;
  • Reduce wages and further weaken union power to work for better wages and conditions;
  • Prohibit banking regulations which protected Australian depositors during the GFC;
  • Threaten internet access and impose stringent new copyright restrictions and penalties;
  • Increase cost of access to media;
  • Ban “Buy Australian” policies needed to create green jobs;
  • Raise the cost of pharmaceuticals by lengthening patents and decreasing access to generics;
  • Expose Australian consumers to unsafe imported food products;
  • Restrict labelling information on food products;
  • Ban labelling of genetically-modified products;
  • Empower corporations to attack environmental and health and safety standards
  • Restrict social welfare legislation;
  • Reduce government oversight of environmental effects of fracking and other kinds of mining;
  • Weaken regulation of agricultural toxins and pesticides;
  • Restrict government regulation of foreign ownership of land and other assets
  • Lead to the privatisation of government services with favoured treatment for foreign corporations (including the post office, transport, Medicare); and
  • Increase the cost of social services.

One aspect of the TPP agreement – Investor State Dispute Settlement, ISDS – allows foreign corporations to sue Australia (ie, taxpayers) for millions of dollars in special foreign tribunals for any legislation, regulation or policy which affects or may affect their profits. For example, after losing their case twice in Australian courts, Philip Morris is currently suing the Australian Government over plain packaging requirements for cigarettes using a foreign tribunal under the provisions of a 1993 treaty between Australia and Hong Kong.

There is no appeal against the decisions of these tribunals.

If the Australian government agrees to the TPP, Australian society will be radically and suddenly transformed without the need for a referendum or even public discussion. Yet a recent survey by the Australia Institute showed that only 11% of Australians know this deal even exists or is in the pipeline.

Pauline Westwood is a CLA member who is opposed to the TPP agreement. She has extensively researched the agreement for the past 12 months in particular, and has a range of references available to anyone who would like further information.

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