The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: why we need to be concerned

TPP-16-mapThe Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is a free trade agreement involving Australia, the US, and ten other countries. Negotiations are secret, and the agenda is being driven by the US on behalf of its global corporations. They want changes to our laws to increase their corporate rights at the expense of our rights.

One of the more alarming clauses being negotiated, and which leaked documents show the Abbott Government being in favour of, is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause. This will allow foreign investors to sue governments for compensation in an international tribunal if they can claim that a domestic law or policy “harms” their investment. A number of existing trade agreements around the world contain ISDS clauses.  A recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Report states that in 2013 alone investors initiated at least 57 known investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) cases pursuant to international investment agreements (IIAs).Under ISDS clauses in the 1993 Australia-Hong Kong trade agreement tobacco giant Phillip Morris Asia is suing the Australian government over the cigarette plain packaging laws introduced in 2012. While ISDS provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have allowed the US oil and gas corporation Lone Pine to sue the Quebec provincial government for $250 million after the government halted shale gas production pending further environmental studies.

While the TPP negotiation process is clouded in secrecy a number of groups are working to spread awareness and ensure the rights of citizens and the environment are not traded off for the sake of corporations.

The Australian Senate is currently considering a Trade and Foreign Investment (Protecting the Public Interest) Act 2014 introduced by Greens spokesperson for Trade, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson in March. The purpose of the Bill is to protect Australian laws by banning Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions.

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