AFTINET sends letter to the Government over TPPA negotiations

28 August 2012
The Hon. Dr. Craig Emerson
Minister for Trade
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Dr. Emerson,

Our organisations are concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement (TPPA) being negotiated with the US, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. The agenda is being heavily influenced by US corporations which regard many areas of Australian government regulation, including health and environmental legislation, as barriers to trade. They want the agreement to include the ability of foreign investors to sue governments for damages on the grounds that government regulation harms their investment, known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).

We congratulate your Government for its policy against ISDS and its steadfast opposition to the attempt by the Philip Morris tobacco company to sue for damages over the tobacco plain packaging legislation, using an obscure 1993 Hong Kong Australia investment agreement.

We also congratulate your Government on its recent High Court victory over the tobacco companies’ constitutional challenge to the plain packaging legislation. The fact that Philip Morris is persisting with its ISDS case in the expectation of more favourable treatment in an international tribunal shows how ISDS can be used to attempt to undermine democratic legislation which has been validated by the highest court in the land.

As pressure mounts to conclude the negotiations, we ask you to continue to implement your policy to reject ISDS in all trade agreements. Failure to implement this policy would open the door to further litigation like the Philip Morris case.

There are many examples of foreign investors using such provisions to challenge environmental regulation in other countries. See Kyla Tienhaara (2009) The Expropriation of Environmental Governance: Protecting Foreign Investors at the Expense of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

We note that representatives of the generics medicine industry in Australia have advised that there is a risk that ISDS provisions could allow international pharmaceutical companies to take legal action against the Government over administrative aspects of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. See http://www.pharmainfocus.com.au/NewsPrint.asp?newsid=5696

We also ask you to implement your policy to reject any other proposals which could change and undermine Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and result in higher prices for medicines.

We also ask you to reject proposals for increased rights for patent and copyright holders at the expense of consumers, for reduction of Australian content in government purchasing, for reduction of Australian content in audio-visual media, for removal of labelling for genetically engineered food, and to reject any other proposals which would reduce the capacity of government to regulate in the public interest.

We ask you to support enforceable workers’ rights and environmental protections, and to release the text of the agreement for public and Parliamentary discussion before it is signed by Cabinet.


Yours sincerely


Dr. Patricia Ranald
Convenor, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
cc the Hon. Julia Gillard, Prime Minister

This letter is endorsed by the following organisations:
Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
Australian Council of Trade Unions
Australian Conservation Foundation
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Public Health Association of Australia
Australian Pensioners and Superannuants Federation Inc.
Australian Education Union
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union
Australian Services Union
Australian Writers Guild
Community and Public Sector Union State Public Services Federations
Finance Sector Union
National Tertiary Education Union
National Union of Workers
Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia
United Voice
Friends of the Earth
Greenpeace
Gene Ethics
Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering (MADGE)
Edmund Rice Centre
The Grail Australia (Global Women’s Justice Network)
Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church
Uniting World
Aid/Watch
Asian Women at Work Inc.
Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of NSW
Economic Reform Australia
Peoples Health Movement Australia
Search Foundation