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TPP: crunch time in parliament

Patricia Ranald (AFTINET)


The TPP’s formal signing ceremony held in Auckland in February masked the fact that there’s a long road ahead if the agreement is ever to be ratified.

Here in Australia, it signals the start of the parliamentary process – the TPP and its National Interest Analysis was tabled in Parliament this week. The National Interest Analysis was done by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which negotiated the agreement, and is not independent.

This starts a process where the TPP will be examined by parliamentary committees before its implementing legislation will be put to a vote.

The Government has a majority in the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, which will receive submissions until the 11th of March and report at the end of June. However, a Senate inquiry without a government majority is likely to be more critical of the agreement.

With Labor, Greens and independents together holding a majority in the Senate, there’s still a chance that the TPP legislation could be voted down.

The process will take a couple of months and we’re expecting that the vote won’t be held in Australia until after June.

Elsewhere, the TPP is also facing firm opposition.

In the United States, the situation is looking bad for TPP supporters. All of the main Presidential candidates on both sides of politics do not support the deal, and Congress will not vote on it until after the November Presidential election.

In Canada, the new Trudeau Government signed the deal but has made it clear that this doesn’t mean they are committing to ratify it. They are reportedly taking their time to consult with stakeholders and hold a parliamentary debate before ratification.

In New Zealand, there is massive public opposition and thousands blocked the streets of Auckland to protest at the signing ceremony.

News wrap

Opposition to the TPP continues to build in Australia and AFTINET and its members contributed to plenty of critical news coverage around the TPP’s ceremonial signing last week.

AFTINET Convener Dr Pat Ranald published an op-ed in the Fairfax press on the Parliamentary process calling on the Senate to reject the implementing legislation. We’ve included a full copy in this bulletin.

Our calls for a truly independent assessment of the TPP made headlines in the Fairfax press and ABC news online. AFTINET spoke at a cross-party forum in Parliament House and present- ed a letter endorsed by 59 organisations, which together represent around two million Australians and a broad cross-section of our society. Campaign groups GetUp and Sumofus also presented a petition signed by 305,000 people.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb hit back at AFTINET by attacking our broad coalition of supporters on ABC Radio National Breakfast. Mr Robb said we were the “usual suspects” opposed to trade, and we countered by emphasising that our opposition is to the fact that the TPP is not mainly about trade – we’re opposed to extending monopoly rights for global corporations and investor rights to sue governments. This was picked up in The Guardian, which reported that Robb had rejected our calls for a TPP cost-benefit analysis.

When Minister Robb finally tabled the TPP in Parliament this week, he was criticised for refusing to agree to our calls for an independent assessment of the deal and the Fairfax press again reported on the strong community opposition to the deal, citing AFTINET’s recent letter.

Trade Minister Robb has announced his retirement at the next election, but will continue in his position until then.

Source: AFTINET Bulletin, Feb 2016

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