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Report exposes bias in tribunals used by foreign investors to sue governments

The Australian Government is being sued for damages by the Philip Morris tobacco company in an international tribunal over its tobacco plain packaging legislation. The Government is opposing the inclusion of investor rights to sue in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPPA) negotiations which begin in New Zealand on December 2.

A study by the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute shows how these tribunals, made up of investment lawyers who can also be advocates, lack independence and result in decisions which favour business at the expense of health, environment and other public interest legislation.

See the report at

Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations Round 15: Auckland, New Zealand December 2 -12

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations between the US, Australia, New Zealand, and 8 other countries around the Pacific Rim, will be held in Auckland December 2 –12.

Community groups and unions are opposing the TPPA's corporate driven agenda, which seeks greater rights for international corporations at the expense of people; extending patents on medicines to charge higher prices for longer and with less regulation; stronger copyright laws on the Internet restricting Internet freedom; and rights for foreign investors to sue governments for damages if a law or policy harms their investment.

AVAAZ, the global online campaign, aims to get 1 million signatures for its petition on the TPP at the Auckland negotiations.

Read on and sign the petition today!

AFTINET supports efforts to ensure trade rules do not stop governments from regulating to prevent financial crises

In the wake of the global financial crisis, most governments have agreed that stronger financial regulation, both domestic and international, is needed to prevent financial crises. Recommendations have been made by the G20 group of governments, by a UN study authored by Nobel–Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, and even recently by the International Monetary Fund.

Ecuador has proposed that this issue be discussed at the upcoming WTO meeting at the end of October 2012. AFTINET has signed a letter from civil society groups in many countries supporting Ecuador's proposal, and has also written a letter to the Australian Trade Minister to ask him to support such a discussion.

AFTINET paper on Philip Morris Case at TPPA Leesburg negotiations

On Sunday 9th September AFTINET Convenor, Dr Patricia Ranald, gave a presentation on the Philip Morris case and the dangers of Investor State Dispute Settlements to negotiators at the Stakeholders Forum of the Trans-Pacific Partnership 14th Round in Leesburg, Virginia.

Read the full paper here

Also check out the coverage of the presentation in The Sydney Morning Herald, Big Tobacco warning at free-trade talks

Keeping up the pressure for Fair Trade! TPPA negotiators tweeted!

Our US friends at Citizen Trade Campaign (CTC) created a new program that allowed the public to send twitter-style messages to the trade negotiators at the latest round of Trans Pacific Partnership talks in Lessberg, Virginia.

Individuals sent their own personal tweet via the CTC website which were then projected up on a wall inside the resort where TPPA negotiators were meeting on Sunday, September 9.

Tweets such as "#TPP threatens the economy, the environment and democracy, not to mention the lives of millions!! I have a right to know what is being proposed in my name. #openTPP", sent by one individual on Sunday, helped send a powerful message, reminding negotiators that the world is watching them.

Check out the full stream online

AFTINET sends letter to the Government over TPPA negotiations

In conjunction with our E- card campaign (see above) for individuals to send a message to the Minister about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), AFTINET has sent a letter to both the Trade Minister and the Prime Minister, which has been endorsed by 30 community organisations.

The letter asks the Minister to resist pressure from business and to implement government policy against special rights for foreign investors to sue governments (known as investor-state disputes) in the TPPA and other agreements. The Philip Morris Tobacco company is using this special right in an obscure 1993 Hong Kong-Australia investment agreement to try to undermine the recent High Court decision in favour or the government's plain packaging legislation.

Read on to see the full letter!

Australian High Court rules against big tobacco on plain packaging

AFTINET welcomes the High Court decision against big tobacco's challenge to plain packaging legislation as a vindication of the Government’s right to regulate tobacco as an addictive substance that still kills 15,000 Australians per year.

But the government still faces two more legal challenges from big tobacco, which is desperate to stop Australia setting an example by implementing the plain packaging recommendations of the World Health Organisation.

The Philip Morris tobacco company is currently suing the Australian government over its tobacco plain packaging legislation, using an obscure 1993 Hong Kong- Australia investment treaty despite being a US-based company. Big tobacco is also reportedly providing legal advice and funding to the Ukraine and Honduras Governments which have launched a complaint in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the grounds that the Australian legislation is contrary to a WTO intellectual property agreement.

New Video: The Dark Side of Investment Agreements

Global corporations want to use trade and investment agreements to give them special rights to sue governments if their investments have been ‘harmed’ by a law or policy.

These disputes are heard by international investment tribunals, which give priority to corporate interests.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, US corporations have sued governments for millions of dollars over legitimate health and environmental legislation.

Check out The Dark Side of Investment Agreements video, produced by our friends at the Transnational Institute, to learn more.

AFTINET Trade Justice Dinner a Fantastic Success

On Wednesday 27th June AFTINET held it’s 11th annual Trade Justice Dinner at Sydney's Hellenic Restaurant. The dinner included a raffle with some fantastic prizes and a fiercely contested auction, as well as the Hellenic's fine Greek cuisine, making for a fun-packed evening enjoyed by all and raising over $5,000 in aid of AFTINET's trade justice campaign work. We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who attended and supported the event helping make it such a big success!

Our guest speaker for the evening was Dr. Kyla Tienhaara, discussing “Tobacco giants use of trade agreements to sue governments: The Philip Morris case”, which gave our audience insight into the activities of the corporations using Investor-State Dispute processes to sue governments, something AFTINET actively campaigns against.

Read on for Dr Tienhaara’s full speech.