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Australia should resist US bullying at TPP trade talks

November 25, 2013

Australia should resist US bullying on medicines and investor rights to sue at secret Trans-Pacific (TPP) trade talks in Salt Lake City

“As revealed by leaked documents two weeks ago, the US is still pushing for stronger patent rights and higher prices for medicines as secret talks continue this week in Salt Lake City,” Dr Patricia Ranald, Convenor of the Australian Fair Trade Network (AFTINET) said today. “This is not a negotiation. The US is dictating the terms and it seems the Australian Government is not prepared to join other governments which are resisting these demands”.

“Australian Trade officials have also revealed in Senate Estimates hearings that the Australian Government is prepared to agree to include in the TPP the right of foreign investors to sue governments in international tribunals if they can allege that a law or policy harms their investment. This would mean more cases like the one taken by the Philip Morris Tobacco Company which is currently suing the Australian government for millions of dollars in damages over the tobacco plain packaging legislation. More cases like this would undermine Australia’s democracy and sovereignty,” said Dr Ranald.

“The US is stepping up the pressure as negotiations move towards the US-imposed deadline of the TPP ministerial meeting in Singapore on 7-10 December. This deadline is designed to get the TPP into the US Congress before campaigning begins for the mid-term Congressional elections. But there is little chance that Congress will grant the Trade Promotion Authority needed for Congress to have a yes/no vote without amending the agreement. In the House of Representatives, 151 Democrats and 22 Republicans have already said they will not vote for Trade Promotion Authority,” said Dr Ranald.

“So the US is dictating the terms of an agreement which they cannot guarantee will get through their own Congress. President Obama was not even able to attend APEC and TPP meetings last month in Bali because the Congress shut his government down. It would be foolish of the Australian Government to bow to bullying and make concessions for a deal which is likely to unravel in the unpredictable politics of the US Congress,” said Dr Ranald.

“We call on the Australian Government to reject US demands for stronger patents and higher prices on medicines and for the right of foreign investors to sue governments for damages in international tribunals. We also call for an end to the secrecy and for the full text of the agreement to be released for public and parliamentary discussion before it is signed by Cabinet,” said Dr Ranald.

ENDS

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