CPTPP signed but not yet implemented: Senate Inquiry needed to assess if it is in the public interest

Media release, 9 March 2018: Dr Patricia Ranald, Convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network called today for a Senate Inquiry to assess whether the rebadged Comprehensive Progressive TPP is in the public interest, before Parliament considers the implementing legislation.

“The TPP has been signed but the process is not over. The text will be tabled in Parliament and reviewed by a Joint Standing Committee on which the government has a majority, to consider the implementing legislation. This is virtually a rubber stamp process because, in addition to public submissions, the committee receives a major report from the Department that negotiated the agreement, which always says yes to the implementing legislation,” said Dr Ranald.

“The government has so far refused to commission independent studies of impact of the CPTPP. We call for a Senate inquiry that can critically assess whether the deal is in the public interest and whether the implementing legislation should be passed. If it is not in the public interest, we will campaign for the Senate to block the implementing legislation,” said Dr Ranald.

 “The rebadged TPP still has 30 chapters and 6000 pages of legally binding rules which suit global corporations but mostly restrain future governments from regulating in the public interest in areas like access to medicines, essential services, the internet and financial regulation. Only 22 clauses have been suspended, but not removed, pending the US rejoining the deal.”

“Many of the most harmful clauses remain. The deal still includes special rights for foreign investors to bypass national courts and sue governments for millions of dollars in unfair international tribunals over changes to domestic laws, known as ISDS,” said Dr Ranald.

“The Australian government has not sought changes to provisions for more vulnerable temporary migrant workers, from Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Canada Mexico and Chile without testing if local workers are available. This is contrary to its own claims to have reintroduced such testing. There have been no changes to the chapters on trade in services and state-owned enterprises which could restrict future governments from re-regulating essential services like TAFE, energy and financial services, even if there are demonstrated market failures.”

Dr Ranald explained that the 20 suspended clauses are mostly about medicine and copyright monopolies. Other governments had only reluctantly agreed to US proposals on stronger monopolies on biologic medicines and longer copyright monopolies to gain access to the US market. Some of these clauses have been suspended, pending the US rejoining the deal. But the intellectual property chapter still entrenches other restrictions on government’s ability to change such regulation in future, which have been criticised by the Productivity Commission.

“Australia already has free trade agreements with all but two of the other CPTPP countries, and without the US market, the economic benefits are even less than they were under the original deal.  We need a Senate inquiry to conduct a critical assessment of whether the implementing legislation should be passed. If it is not in the public interest, we will campaign for the Senate to block the implementing legislation,” said Dr Ranald.