When you buy a car, you are allowed to look under the hood and start the engine. But with regard to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), we must just trust what government says – because a Minister says so. If signed – 23 million people and the future of their children will be impacted by what has been negotiated in secret.
The Age reported that the text in 20 chapters of the TPP will not be made public until after the trade ministers shake hands (next month). Based on the (leaked) proposals in the TPP, investor-state dispute settlement procedures would make it difficult for governments to legislate in ways that harmed tobacco, alcohol, food manufacturers and medicines.
But Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, in a Media release, strongly rejects TPP scaremongering. He claims The Age reports and others – as “another beat up”. “Nor would we accept outcomes that undermine our ability to regulate or legislate in the public interest in areas such as health,” Mr Robb said. But critics suggest that Australia might not be able to refuse products that don’t adhere to our environmental regulations (e.g. “dolphin safe”, chemical use) or child labour laws, health regulations, or cigarette plain packaging.
Since 2011, Mr Robb says, DFAT has conducted more than 1,000 briefings with interested stakeholders, including groups representing health, pharmaceuticals, consumers and unions. But as Choice reports – The media has been locked out.
I believe the TPP might be a little like signing on of these online app agreements. We won’t understand or have the time to absorb the document’s ramifications fully. We will be enticed by the juicy carrots (the trade chapters) that will be advertised in the media – but then be whacked in perpetuity by the big stick (the other chapters that remove liberties and perpetuate corporate control).
Below are points of concern as to why we must be suspicious of the TPP:
The process is being conducted in secret.
It has been said that only 5 of the 29 chapters have something to do with trade. What are the other chapters about. Covert control?
The corporate elites are allegedly writing the text. If so, this provides an advantage for these corporations.
Will the TPP give multinational corporations the power to sue the Australian Government? There are already examples around the world of companies using what’s known as Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions to sue governments:
- A foreign-owned energy company filed a $250 million lawsuit against the Canadian government, when Quebec placed a ban on dangerous fracking processes in a local river.
- In El Salvador, a Canadian company is suing the government for $315 million in “loss of future profits” because local citizens won a hard-fought campaign against a gold mine that threatened to contaminate their water supplies.
- And in Canada, U.S. pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly is suing the government for $500 million in compensation, because the courts revoked two of the company’s patents citing lack of evidence around the drugs’ supposed benefits.
Be suspicious when the media is locked out.
You cannot trust government. They are not culpable for their poor decisions. Take for example the East West Link Tunnel Project. A month before the election, the previous State government signed a contract that had huge penalties for cancellation. Just over a month later the project was cancelled and construction of the actual project had not begun. Yet the Victorian tax payers will be paying a $1.1 billion compensation bill. And the East West Link consortium is refusing to tell the State Government how much it has spent so far (A guess is maybe $250 million? But it wants $1.2 billion). The people will be paying for corporate bonuses, plus paying for previous Ministers (who signed the poor contract) to walk away with fat pensions and benefits.
The time proposed for public scrutiny seems limited and late in the game.
It sounds like the Ministers are doing all the negotiating. But is this true?
Trans-Pacific Partnership Leaders’ Statement November 10, 2014 states “Our fundamental direction to our Ministers throughout this process…. “
The TPP Trade Ministers’ Report to Leaders November 10, 2014 states “Ministers have been actively engaging….”
But we read that members of Congress have not been allowed “access” to the documents. I have written to Minister Robb’s office many times asking: “Has Minister Robb read the text?” They cannot answer the question, except that he is engaged in the process.
The TPP is publishing bold and seeming impossible statements: “Our fundamental direction to our Ministers throughout this process has been to negotiate an outcome that will generate the greatest possible benefit for each of our countries.”
In the Darwinian world of multinationals and privatisation the above sentence is an oxymoron. There are winner and losers. Winning countries. Most likely private advantage.
It is a worry when it impacts everybody, but hardly anybody knows about it.
The old saying: If the deal sounds to good to be true – it probably is. (Without giving us the downside it becomes a dishonest process).
Minister Robb sounds like a second hand car salesman. He is trying to sell us this new car, but won’t disclose the colour, the model or the price. At the moment we just don’t know what is under the hood.