US Push to Finish Trans-Pacific Trade Deal In Secrecy
US Push to Finish Trans-Pacific Trade Deal In Secrecy Resisted By Governments and Community Groups
“As the 19th round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) begins in Brunei this week, the US Trade Representative has called a meeting of TPPA Trade Ministers who are also at an APEC meeting in Brunei on August 22-23. This meeting is designed to pressure them to finish the deal as quickly and secretly as possible,” Dr Patricia Ranald, Convenor of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET), said today.
“This bullying will not work because there are still deep divisions amongst governments on US proposals on medicines, copyright, investor rights and other issues. The Malaysian government has already said it will not be bound by arbitrary time lines,” said Dr Ranald.
“Governments are responding to their own national interests and to community groups which oppose stronger patents on medicines which would raise medicine prices, oppose criminal penalties for breaching copyright on the Internet, and oppose the right of foreign investors to sue governments for damages over health and environmental legislation. The Philip Morris Company is currently using an obscure Hong Kong-Australia investment agreement to sue the Australian government for millions of dollars over its plain packaging legislation. This has reinforced community opposition and government policy against ISDS,” explained Dr Ranald.
“The Australian Trade Minister will not be attending the meeting because of the caretaker period for the Federal elections, so Australia will not be bound if any deals are reached before the negotiators begin the detailed negotiations on August 24,” added Dr Ranald.
“In addition to the resistance to US proposals on medicines, copyright and investor rights to sue governments, there are deep divisions over other issues. In the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, most governments are resisting US proposals to forbid the use of capital controls, speculation taxes and other prudential financial measures. Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam are also resisting proposals to restrict the commercial activities of state-owned enterprises. There is still no agreement on proposals for governments to commit to enforceable labour rights and environmental protections,” explained Dr Ranald.
“Negotiations on market access for goods and services have barely begun. Japan only joined the negotiations in July, and their government has promised Japanese farmers that they will keep protections for key agricultural products like rice and beef. The US is still refusing additional agricultural market access for countries with which it has bilateral agreements. This means Australia will not gain any US market access greater than what was in the US-Australia free trade agreement, which was very little. Given all these issues, is not likely that the deal will be done by the target date of the APEC meeting of early October, or even by the end of the year,” said Dr Ranald.
“If governments do give in to US pressure, we would end up with another unfair deal like the US-Australia deal, done in secret without public scrutiny. We call on the Australian government and other governments to resist bullying and to release the text of any agreement for full public and parliamentary discussion before any deals are signed.”