The economy will grow gangbusters, trade will rocket ahead and immense benefits will be ours according to Australia’s Trade Minister, Andrew Robb this morning. Keen to promote a secret document even he cannot confirm a detailed knowledge of he was absurdly bullish about a treaty which cannot be revealed until it is all signed and sealed. If it all sounds too good to be true, that is because it is. It does nothing to boost his own or his government’s stocks, however much the miracle deal is hyped and oversold.
Robb has been conned. His claims for the Trans-Pacific Partnership are spurious at best and confined to pollywaffle about increased trade. Less than one fifth of the treaty, in fact, deals with trade. Robb cannot point to one clear-cut advantage. Nor should we be buying a pig in a poke. No-one should accept his explanation that the secrecy is to ‘protect negotiations’. That’s nonsense.
The Australian people have a democratic right to know what you have just signed on our behalf, Mr Robb. Why is it that
600 plus corporate advisers have access to the treaty’s text? Are we suddenly trust giant firms such as Halliburton, Monsanto, Walmart, and Chevron? Unlike you and your government, many of us just don’t accept that an elite corporation knows what’s best for all of us.
At worst, Robb’s promises are outright lies. As with all so-called ‘free trade agreements’, the TPP is not free. Nor it is not primarily about trade. As Joseph Stiglitz warns, the TPP is about the protection of corporate monopolies at the expense of everyone else. What suits corporations will cost ordinary people their rights.
I’ve talked to the health negotiators around the world. I’ve talked to people who’ve been involved in the arbitration process as part of the investment agreements. Even people who are arbitrators say the whole system is corrupt, that it’s a very expensive system, that therefore creates an un-even playing field with big corporations with big, deep pockets can get access to have recourse, whereas smaller firms can’t… It’s not just a trade agreement, it’s a really major change in a legal structure.
The TPP is firstly a US political strategy to boost its international authority. The waning superpower is attempting to counter the influence of a rising China. The TPP involves twelve countries whose trade and commerce add up to an impressive 40% of the world’s GDP even if it is it constructed to benefit the wealthy elite in the US and US-based and other global multinationals – whatever it may cost the rest of us.
Beyond this, the TPP permits hugely powerful multinational corporations to become more powerful. For Australia, TPP weakens our intellectual property rights and attacks our sovereign law. Its ISDS clauses allow investors to sue us if our law conflicts with that investor’s capacity to make a profit, as is the case currently with Phillip Morris’ case against the Australian government over plain packaging for cigarettes.
The Philip Morris tobacco company is currently suing the Australian government using an obscure 1993 Hong Kong- Australia investment treaty. A US-based company, it could not sue under the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement: public opposition kept this clause out of the agreement. In order to sue, the company simply rearranged its assets to become a Hong Kong investor.
Philip Morris lobbied hard as did other Big tobacco and other powerful global corporations to include the right of foreign investors to sue governments in TPP negotiations among the US, Australia, New Zealand and six Asia-Pacific countries. And it’s not just tobacco packaging, the agreement contains provisions which limit the government’s ability to label food, even though this is in both consumers’ and government’s best interests to look after public health.
Medical costs will rise as the TPP will displace ‘generic’ medicines to protect the rights of Big pharma to make bigger profits. Other TPP proposals attack our PBS, the Australian government’s ability to keep drug prices affordable. Wholesale prices of the same medicines in the US are three to ten times higher than in Australia and retail is even higher. If you are a pensioner in Australia, your bill is no greater than $6.10. the TPP contains provisions which threaten to raise prices to governments which would then have to pass the increases on to consumers.
Internet service in Australia has never been cheap when contrasted with other countries. Expect to have to pay more under the TPPA. Last year, an international coalition representing over 100 web companies and Internet user groups protested that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would force ISPs and web providers to police the Internet. This would be passed on to the consumer.
Australians deserve to hear less spin about benefits to trade and have a right to know about loss of our sovereign rights and our rights as consumers. Skip the Turn-bullshit and tell the nation the truth about the TPP, Mr Prime Minister. We had a gutful of secrecy, evasion and deception from your predecessor. Act now to avoid joining him.