TPP Urgent letter to the Trade Minister: Don't trade away our health, sovereignty, democracy

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

Dear Mr Robb,

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), involving 12 nations across the Pacific, is now due for decision at meetings on December 7-9.

The TPP 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.

We know from leaked documents that, despite opposition from most other governments, the US insisting on stronger patent rights which would mean higher prices for medicines. This is unacceptable. The Australian Government should join other governments which are resisting these demands.

We understand that your government is prepared to negotiate investor-state dispute settlement proposals (ISDS) 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.

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. A US-based energy company is using ISDS to sue the Canadian Quebec provincial government because it is conducting an environmental review of shale gas mining.

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 TPP and all trade agreements.

Given the importance of these issues for Australian democracy and sovereignty, I ask you to release the text of any agreement for full public and Parliamentary discussion before it is signed by Cabinet.

Yours sincerely

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