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Issue #1691      July 1, 2015

Editorial

Act against the TPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is a free trade agreement being negotiated between Australia, the US, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Japan and Vietnam

The TPP negotiations have been rightly widely criticised for their secrecy. The current process means the details of the deal are secret and only become pubic after it has been signed.

The US wants special rights for foreign investors included in the TPP, which would allow foreign investors to sue governments for millions of dollars if their investments are “harmed” by a change in a law or policy, even if that law or policy is designed to protect public health or the environment. The proposal is known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS, mechanism.

These disputes are heard by international investment tribunals, which have no independent judges, because arbitrators can also be practising lawyers, and there are no precedents or appeals, so decisions can undermine national laws and court systems.

The big corporations are pushing for the inclusion of these special rights in the TPP, which would allow them to sue governments for damages if their investments have been harmed by a particular law or policy, even if the law or policy protects public health. Philip Morris is already challenging the Australian government over the tobacco plain packaging legislation, using an obscure 1993 Australia-Hong Kong investment treaty.

Last week WikiLeaks released secret documents on TISA (Trade In Services Agreement) negotiations which cover the United States, the European Union and 23 other countries including Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Taiwan and Israel – which together comprise two-thirds of global GDP. “Services” now account for nearly 80 percent of the US and EU economies and even in developing countries like Pakistan account for 53 percent of the economy. While the proposed TPP has become well known in recent months in the United States and Europe, the TISA is the larger component of the strategy.

The release coincides with TISA meetings at the ministerial level at the OECD in Paris this month.

The TISA WikiLeaks release follows the WikiLeaks publication of the secret draft financial services annex of the TISA negotiations on June 19, 2014 showing the aim is to further deregulate the financial sector, despite widespread consensus that lack of oversight and deregulation were the main sparks that ignited the global financial crisis of 2008. The release confirms the ongoing determination to deregulate. Furthermore, standstill clauses will tie the hands of future governments wishing to implement changes in response to changing environment.

The release is the largest on secret TISA documents and covers numerous previously undisclosed areas. It contains drafts and annexes on issues such as air traffic, maritime, professional services, e-commerce, delivery services, transparency, domestic regulation, as well as several document on the positions of negotiating parties. WikiLeaks has also published detailed expert analysis of the topics covered in its release.

There is pressure to finish the deal in 2015. We must ensure that our health, environmental and other laws are decided through democratic processes, not secretly signed away in a trade agreement.

You can:

  • Send a message to the Trade Minister
  • Help raise awareness by liking AFTINET on Facebook and following them on Twitter for updates which you can share with your own networks
  • Contact your local MP and Senator
  • Organise a local or workplace meeting

For more information: www.aftinet.org.au

Next article – Offshore processing illegal

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