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TPPA Negotiations Slowed By Resistance To US Demands

Friday March 9, 2012

The 11th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement negotiations between Australia, the US, New Zealand, Malaysia and four other countries ends today, slowed again by resistance to US corporate demands on medicine prices and broad investor rights.

“The strong objections of civil society to these extreme demands have resonated with the Australian government and other negotiatiors in the TPPA talks,” said Dr Patricia Ranald, convenor of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network.

With talks blocked or stalling, the US is reported to have demanded that pressure be increased to “wrap up” the TPPA by July, and that future negotiating rounds take place in the US where the US Trade Representative would control the agenda.

“Community groups, academics and unions were able to inform negotiators about the potential for grave abuse of the US proposal that corporations be empowered to sue governments over broad social, economic and environmental policies. While Australia's rejection of this particular demand is now well known, we hope that this will lead to objections from other countries,” said Dr Ranald.

“Australia's action in legislating for plain packaging of tobacco makes it a leader in tobacco control,” Dr Ranald said. “Taking on the Philip Morris challenge to this legislation has made Australia a global champion for the cause of public health over commercial interests, but the US demands at the TPPA would roll all that back.

“US demands that patents be extended beyond 20 years, that new patents be allowed on superficial modifications of existing medicines, and that more roadblocks for the entry of generic medicines be created, would increase costs for Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme, and effectively deny vital medicines to populations in developing countries,” she said.

The US also wants to restrict government regulation of prices through schemes like the PBS, she added.

The US wants to extend a ban on local content for national government purchases to all the TPPA countries, but to exclude US state governments from this policy. This protects much of US government procurement, but denies other countries the right to use government purchases to develop their economies.

Broader copyright and intellectual property rights demands by the US would lock up the internet, stifle research and increase education costs, by extending existing generous copyright from 70 years to 120 years, and even making it a criminal offense to temporarily store files on a computer without authorisation.

“The US is a net exporter of digital information, and would be the only party to benefit from this,” Dr Ranald said.

Contrary to the global realisation that the finance sector needs more regulation, the US proposals in the TPPA are to further deregulate capital flows. While this would enhance individual corporate profits, it would add to financial instability and could destabilise the finance systms of smaller TPPA countries, like Malaysia, Viet Nam, Peru and Chile.

“There is a swelling chorus of voices, even including Australia's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, calling for the public release of the negotiating texts,” Dr Ranald added.



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