NZ/ Aus PMs Urged to reject US investment demands next week
Australian and NZ groups urge PMs to reject US investment demands next week
Just days before next week’s talks in Auckland on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), civil society groups from Australia and New Zealand have sent a joint open letter to their Prime Ministers urging them to adopt a progressive and balanced approach to foreign investment.
The letter, signed by 43 organisations, urges the two governments to reject expected US demands for rules and enforcement mechanisms contained in past US free trade deals.
Australia earlier ruled investor-enforcement out of their 2005 free trade agreement with the US. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key recently described the inclusion of investor-state enforcement powers in a TPPA as “far-fetched” and said he expected New Zealand would support Australia’s position in rejecting such a mechanism.
“Public opposition kept these clauses, which allow corporations special rights to sue governments for damages, out of the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement,” said Harvey Purse, Trade Justice Campaigner for the umbrella group AFTINET (the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network).
“US business groups have made it clear that they want an investor-state complaint process in this agreement. Australians opposed it then, and they will oppose it again with the TPPA,” he said.
New Zealand coordinator of the letter, Professor Jane Kelsey, said that the groups who signed the letter applauded the rejection of investor-state enforcement powers by the two governments as an important first step, and urge them to adopt a similarly forward thinking approach by promoting a different kind of investment agreement.
“We are urging the government to jettison the old-style NAFTA model in favour of an agreement among the TPPA parties that is genuinely fit for the 21st century – one that rebalances investor rights with enforceable responsibilities and restores the primacy of national sovereignty and democratic control over investment-related decisions,” she said.
Harvey Purse said tobacco giant Philip Morris has used an investor-state dispute process to sue the Uruguayan government when it introduced restrictions on tobacco advertising, and the company’s submission on the TPPA has again lobbied for this right for investors to sue governments directly.
He said the Australian government’s plans for plain packaging of cigarettes could be subject to the same kind of legal challenge, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, if tobacco companies gained access to investor-state dispute settlement through a TPPA.
Signatories to the letter include both countries’ peak trade union bodies and other unions, faith and environment groups, the culture sector, investment watchdogs and other community organisations.