Interviewed on the underlying challenges of the secret TPPA, the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and how it could adversely affect Australia.
The TPPA originally started with NZ, Brunei, Singapore and Chile, but they have since been joined by the US and Australia and five other countries. US corporations are setting the agenda.
Australian civil society groups want the TPPA text to be made public and debated in Parliament before Government signs any agreement.
Why? Because they already have a Free Trade deal with the USA. They have had no economic benefit and are importing more from America than they export. For example, Australian sugar farmers did not get any additional access to US markets.
The US wants to include in the TPPA special rights for foreign investors to sue governments for damages in international tribunals if a law or policy harms their investment. This can undermine democratic health or other regulation by governments.
For example, Philip Morris the tobacco corporation is using an obscure 1993 Hong Kong-Australia investment agreement to sue the Australian Government for damages over its plain packaging legislation. They are persisting with the case despite the fact that the Australian High Court found that tobacco companies were not entitled to compensation for legitimate public health legislation.
These tribunals do not have the safeguards of national systems. The proceedings are secret, arbitrators can be an arbitrator one week and an advocate the next, and there are no precedents or appeals, leading to inconsistent decisions.
The general consensus is that these tribunals are biased in favour of corporate investors.
The US corporate agenda is seen by a growing number of Australians as tying the hands of Government. This can prevent present and future governments to regulate in many important matters, like access to medicine, keeping current environmental laws in place, health regulations, having 'No GE' labelling on food and not opening up essential services to international investors.
The Australian slogan is “Fair Deal or No Deal for the TPPA”
So far, there is no agreement that fundamental labour rights will be included and enforced in the TPPA. These are the freedom of association, the right to form unions, the right to collective bargaining, no forced labour, no child labour and no discrimination in the workplace. Without enforceable labour rights, increased trade can lead to a race to the bottom on working conditions.
Finally, we see that the Australians are fighting the same battle for their sovereignty as we are here in NZ