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What you need to know about the TPP

Darian Hiles

Readers are encouraged to lobby their political representatives and write letters and articles to local and national newspapers expressing their deep concern.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is being promoted strongly by large international corporations as it will remove impediments to their operations and allow them to override national governments whenever they have regulations which may restrict their activities.

The Australian government has not discussed this issue seriously with the Australian public but nevertheless has signaled it is ready to agree to it, including the ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) and other U.S. proposals, in return for more access to U.S. sugar and other agricultural markets.

However major concerns are now coming to light and even U.S. citizens are now questioning this agreement. Australians must now do the same and question whether medicine prices, public health, consumer rights and environmental regulation should be traded away behind closed doors for dubious unexplained economic benefits. Concerns include:

Enabling companies to sue governments

U.S. proposals for an ISDS create a potential restraint on the public policy of other nations, including Australia. Recent EU and other government reviews and even a paper by Australian High Court Chief Justice Robert French have shown that ISDS lacks the basic protections of democratic legal systems. There is no independent judiciary, as arbitrators can also be advocates. Nor is there a system of precedents or appeals, so decisions can be inconsistent. It also creates a “freezing” effect on governments, preventing them from introducing regulation. [1]

National Security

Basic control of our resources would be passed to international corporations, which in the case of China is closely tied to the Chinese government. For example China is keen to see iron ore production grow, both from new deposits and from processed ore, as for every US$10 per tonne drop in the iron ore price, the Chinese economy saves US$8.5 billion. Thus the US$70 ore price decline since 2010 is saving China more than US$40 billion per year on current import quantities. This enables the low-cost depletion of Australia’s minerals with a long-term disadvantage to Australia but to the benefit of China. [2]

Food safety standards

Australia is relatively free of the many pests and diseases that can be spread by international agricultural trade and it has an excellent international reputation for clean and green production but the TPP agreement would compromise Australian control over its standards.

For example the United States has often argued that, in the absence of international standards of chemical use, American standards should be used. In 2007, this approach led Canada to lower its standards to match US settings. [3]

For example the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) undermined Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. [4]

Even the U.S. could be sued

It would even allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business, according to a classified document, by granting broad powers to multinational companies operating in North America, South America and Asia. Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings – federal, state or local – before tribunals organised under the World Bank or the United Nations. The current proposal is for this to be extended to Australia. [5]

This option includes government action that “interferes with distinct, reasonable investment-backed expectations” according to the leaked document. The TPP includes various caveats but they are often easily avoided.

FTAs for political reasons can cause major economic damage Signing any international agreement usually has short-term political advent- ages, particularly when in cases like this the secrecy helps to prevent any potential embarrassments. However an inadequately-examined FTA will almost certainly be to Australia’s long-term disadvantage. [6]

The TPP lacks basic analysis

Trust is a central element of trade but the basics of the TPP have not been checked sufficiently even in the U.S. Paul Krugman reports that its main defence in the US has been through a report from the Council of Economic Advisers, which “didn’t actually analyze the Pacific trade pact. Instead, it was a paean to the virtues of free trade, which was irrelevant to the question at hand – most of which have already been realized”. [7]

Please write

This issue cannot be allowed to be conducted in secret, as it will affect the lives of everyone. All Australian are encouraged to lobby their political representatives and write letters and articles to local and national news- papers and other publications, including web blog-sites, expressing their deep concern. This applies particularly to the Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb, who apparently wants to sign the agreement as soon as possible ([email protected]). The material above is provided as a base.

Newspaper Letters editors include: Advertiser: [email protected]

Sunday Mail: [email protected]
Financial Review: [email protected]
The Australian: [email protected]
The Age: [email protected]
Sydney Morning Herald: [email protected]

This issue also has been taken up by many organisations, such as Getup at


Darian Hiles is ERA president and lives in SA.




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