AFTINET slams zombie TPP Sydney talks

Media Release August 18, 2017: “Trade Minister Ciobo should not be leading the charge to revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership, when there is strong community opposition and the Australian Parliament has not endorsed it,” AFTINET Convenor Dr Patricia Ranald aaid today. 

Trade negotiators from 11 of the original 12 TPP countries are meeting in a secret location in Sydney from August 20 for their fourth set of talks to see if the TPP can be revived without the US. They aim to complete talks by November this year. The 11 countries are Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Dr Ranald said that strong community opposition to the TPP in the US meant the U.S. Congress did not support it before the 2016 election and both main presidential candidates opposed it. Donald Trump only dealt the final blow by withdrawing after the election. Opposition from a broad range of Australian community groups meant an Australian Senate inquiry refused to endorse the TPP, and the Australian Parliament has not passed the implementing legislation.

Community groups oppose the TPP because it gives pharmaceutical companies stronger monopolies on costly biologic medicines, delaying the availability of cheaper forms of those medicines. It gives special rights to foreign investors to bypass national courts and sue governments for millions of dollars in unfair international tribunals over changes to domestic laws.

“Many of the 11 governments only agreed to this agenda because the US demanded it in return for access to US markets. Malaysia and Vietnam have said that, without that US market access, the terms of the TPP need to be renegotiated. They will not give a free ride to the US, and nor should Australia,“ said Dr Ranald.

“Australia already has free trade agreements with the US and all but three of the other ten TPP countries, so the TPP delivers minimal extra market access. Studies showed the TPP with the US would deliver hardly any economic growth to Australia after 15 years. The government has refused to do any studies on the impact of the deal without the US, but any economic benefit would be even less. The TPP is not in Australia’s interest”.

Dr Ranald said that In practice, the Australian government has quietly conceded that a TPP without the US is unlikely by starting separate bilateral negotiations with Peru and Mexico, two of the three TPP countries without FTAs with Australia. If it really believed that the TPP could be revived this year, these negotiations would not be necessary.

“The current text of the TPP is dead because it requires ratification by the US as the largest economy. Even with the minimal change of deleting the US, it would be a new agreement, and would have to be signed, tabled in Parliament and reviewed by Parliamentary committees before any implementing legislation. If the text were substantially the same, there would still be strong community opposition and the majority in the Senate is likely to reject it again. We don’t need the zombie TPP, but we do need progressive, fair trade policies that will benefit most Australians,“ said Dr Ranald.

Contact Dr Patricia Ranald 0419 695 841