Send a message to the Minister for Trade re: TPPA

The Hon. Andrew Robb
Minister for Trade and Investment
Parliament House

Dear Mr Robb,

I am concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPPA), involving 12 nations across the Pacific, which is in its final stages of negotiation.

The TPPA is not only about trade. The United States, on behalf of its major industries, wants to change Australian law in many areas of domestic policy. These policies should be decided through public and parliamentary processes, not through trade negotiations conducted behind closed doors. I ask you to reject proposals which could:

- Extend patents on medicines leading to higher medicine prices
- Reduce the ability to keep medicines affordable through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
- Extend copyright at the expense of schools, libraries and consumers
- Remove our protections for Australian cultural industries
- Undermine government regulation of food labelling
- Reduce our ability to regulate in the interests of public health and the environment

I am especially concerned about proposals which would enable foreign investors to sue governments for millions of dollars of damages in international tribunals if government regulation is seen to “harm” their investment. These proposals are known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).

ISDS reduces the ability of governments to regulate the activities of foreign companies even if these activities harm our health or the environment. The Philip Morris tobacco company is currently using ISDS in an obscure Australia-Hong Kong investment agreement to sue the Australian government over its tobacco plain packaging legislation.

Canada signed on to ISDS provisions in a trade deal with the United States, and now the Quebec provincial government is being sued by a US-based energy company because it is conducting an environmental review of shale gas mining. In a similar way, farmers and community members in NSW and Victoria have influenced their state governments to review and introduce new regulation on Coal Seam Gas mining. I am concerned that if Australia agrees to this proposal in the TPPA, governments could be sued for millions of dollars because of such regulation.

The Howard Coalition Government rejected this proposal in the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, and I ask you to do the same in the TPPA and all trade agreements.

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

Yours sincerely