US TPP Fast Track Bill may pass as UN Human Rights experts slam TPP

Media Release June 24, 2015

US Senate paves the way for TPP Fast Track as UN Human Rights experts demand release of TPP text and human rights impact study

“A procedural vote in the U.S. Senate has paved the way for the TPP Fast Track Bill to be passed through the Congress this week. This means the U.S. Congress will not be able to amend the text of the TPP. A date is then likely be set for the long delayed meeting of TPP Trade Ministers to resume their secret negotiations to try to finalise the deal,” Dr Patricia Ranald Coordinator of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) said today.

“But community opposition to the TPP in many countries has been reinforced by a call from 10 United Nations Human Rights Rapporteurs for a halt to further TPP negotiations and release of the full text so that proper human rights impact assessments can be done. They say the TPP could have detrimental effects on human rights to health, clean environment, improved labour standards and an independent judiciary.

The UN experts also criticised the secrecy of the TPP talks and the Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions which allow foreign corporations to sue governments if they can argue that changes in law or policy “harm” their investment. They argue that this would have a chilling effect on governments’ ability to protect health, environment and other public welfare policies,” said Dr Ranald.

“This underlines the concerns of many Australian health, consumer and other community organisations that the TPP could have a negative impact on many areas of human rights, including access to medicines and limitations on the ability of future governments to regulate on environment health and other public interest issues. The TPP text should be released now to enable a full human rights impact assessment of the TPP,” said Dr Ranald.

“A Senate Inquiry into the Australian trade agreement process due to report tomorrow received an overwhelming majority of submissions criticizing the secrecy of negotiations and calling for the text of trade agreements to be released for public and parliamentary scrutiny before they are signed,” added Dr Ranald

The UN expert call has been joined by Oxfam America, and prominent human rights activists from Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Malaysia, Chile, Peru and Mexico. See quotes below.

Contact: Dr Patricia Ranald, 0419 695 841

Quotes from Human Rights Advocates in other TPP countries

USA

‘At best, trade can be an engine for poverty reduction. At worst, free trade agreements like the TPP can undermine universal human rights. The devil is in the details, and the details on the TPP are still secret. But the leaked texts signal the worst case scenario. Oxfam welcomes the engagement of UN experts and agrees that only a full human rights impact assessment will show whether the agreement is written to benefit special interests or the wider public interest.’

--- Stephanie Burgos, Economic Justice Policy Manager, Oxfam America

Contact: Laura Rusu, Policy & Campaigns Media Manager Oxfam America, LRusu@OxfamAmerica.org, office phone: +1 (202) 496-1169, mobile phone: +1 (202) 459-3739

Canada

‘Human rights are the fundamental basis for all societies.  It is essential that we know the true human cost of such agreements before we even consider them.  Considering the scope and power of the TPP, and how most of us have no access to the details, it is definitely concerning that governments don’t stop and consider what they are getting into.  Another round of negotiations is ludicrous in this context.’

--- Maude Barlow, National Chairperson, Council of Canadians, Canada

Contact: Leila Marshy, Media Relations, Council of Canadians, lmarshy@canadians.org, mobile phone +1613 618-4761

New Zealand

‘The Human Rights Foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand (HRF) is calling on the New Zealand Human Rights Commission to undertake a human rights impact assessment for the TPPA (and for the government to adequately resource the HRC to do so) before TPPA negotiations go any further. This is in light of concern expressed by 10 United Nations human rights experts about the TPPA’s potential adverse impact on human rights. ‘Peter Hosking, Chairperson, HRF and former Commissioner at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission

Contact: Peter Hosking, peterhosking@vodafone.co.nz, mobile phone: +6421660275

Japan

Kazuko Ito, the Secretary General of Japan Human Rights Now (http://hrn.or.jp/eng/) said that ‘the concerns raised by the UN experts deserve the utmost consideration at the TPPA negotiation table.  We are gravely concerned that the negotiation process totally excludes communities which may be affected, and denies rights to information and participation.  Further we are concerned that a wide range of human rights protection in Japan will be at stake as a result of the negotiation, especially in relation to the ISDS section.  Japan should make all necessary efforts to prevent any deterioration of the human rights situation for people potentially affected by the TPPA.’Contact: Kazuko Ito, info@hrn.or.jp, office phone+81-3-3835-2110

Malaysia

Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah, a former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and Deputy Secretary General of the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia, PROHAM) said that ‘in light of the concerns expressed and recommendations by the ten United Nations human rights experts, SUHAKAM must do a human rights impact assessment on the TPPA before any further TPPA negotiations are held or decisions are made on the TPPA.  The Malaysian government must provide sufficient funding to SUHAKAM to conduct such a human rights impact assessment.’

Contact: Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah: mdshaani@gmail.com, mobile phone +6013-3363647

Peru

Javier Llamoza, from Acción Internacional para la Salud de Perú  (Health Action International, Peru), said that ‘the TPP is a major new obstacle to Peru’s ability to meet the need for treatment to which all people are entitled, and to improve the care provided by the public health system, which primarily serves the poor and extremely poor. The human right to health is seriously threatened by this agreement.’

Contact: Javier Llamoza, Acción Internacional para la Salud - Red Ge, javierllamoza@aislac.org, mobile phone: +51998603206

Chile

‘If democracy is really about the active participation of the citizens in political decisions and the protection of their basic human rights, then the TPP is one of the greatest threats to democracy right now. And not just because it is decided behind people’s backs, but because it sets in stone the rules about how our public decisions in critical sectors of our space will be made.’

Claudio Ruiz, Derechos Digitales (Chile) Contact: Vladimir Garay, Derechos Digitales, prensa@derechosdigitales.org, phone: (+56 2) 2702 7108

Mexico

‘In the discussion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and labor rights it is fundamental that the signing states retake the concept of “decent work”, from the International Labour Organisation, as a way to ratify their obligation to guarantee the respect of labor rights (decent income, safe working conditions, social security, liberty to free association, among the most important). For Mexico, the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which is the closest reference for what may occur with the implementation of the TPP, led to the implementation of structural reforms that have meant the loss of fundamental human rights such as: the right to work, the right to unionize, the right to have access to decent income, the right to just working conditions and to access justice.

The signing of these trade agreements, in which transnational corporations play a determining role, shall, as a consequence, cause the implementation of policies, translated into structural reforms, which shall increase violations of rights and lead to the government’s failure to fulfil its principle obligations: to protect, respect and guarantee human rights.’

Alejandra Ancheita, Executive Director of ProDESC (The Project of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Mexico)  

Contact: Adriana Aguilar, ProDESC, adriana@prodesc.org.mx, office phone: +52 (55) 5212 2230, +52 (55) 5212 2229, mobile phone: +52 1 55 15 03 24 10