TPPA Campaign Background and SIgn On Commitment

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This page has been created to provide details of the commencement of the TPPA Campaign and some background informaiton.

Campaign Sign On:

Thirty Australian unions and community groups, on Sunday 14th March 2010, asked the Trade Minister to safeguard the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Australian local content in media, regulation of GE food, regulation of foreign investment and industry policies that support local employment in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations started on Monday March 15.

It isn’t too late to join the campaign. If your organisation wishes to join the campaign please contact the AFTINET Trade Justice Campaigner either by email to campaign@aftinet.org.au or phone 02 9212 7242.

Follow this link to read the statement and to download the joint statement and the media release.

Individuals can get directly involved by emailing Dr Emerson or by downloading and mailing a letter to Dr Emerson.

 

Background:

You may remember the campaign in 2003-4 about the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The US government and companies identified the following Australian health, social and environmental polices as barriers to trade that they wanted to remove or change:

  • Price controls under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which ensure affordable access to medicines and kept Australian medicine prices three to ten times below US prices.
  • Labelling of genetically engineered food.
  • Australian content rules in audio-visual media like film and television.
  • The Foreign Investment Review Board.
  • Quarantine regulations.
  • Local content requirements for government purchasing.

The US government also wanted an investor-state disputes process, which would have given US companies the right to sue Australian governments for damages on the grounds that environmental or other public interest laws could harm their investments. US companies have used this process in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to sue Canadian and Mexican governments for millions of dollars and to force them to change environmental protection laws which were different from US laws.

Our biggest victory was the exclusion of the investor-state complaints process, which means that US companies did not gain extra rights to sue Australian governments. The Australia-US FTA is the only US free trade agreement which does not include this process. We also prevented changes to genetically engineered food regulation, and limited the changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The agreement also had very weak labour and environment clauses, which were not legally based on International Labour Organisation standards, but committed each government only to implement its own laws, with no penalties.

All of these issues are now back on the agenda, because the Australian government has agreed to negotiate with the US, Chile, Peru, Brunei, Singapore New Zealand and Vietnam to develop a multilateral free trade agreement based on the bilateral FTAs the US has with five of these countries.

This means that all of the issues we kept out of the US–Australia FTA will be up for negotiation again. We know from submissions made by US business groups that they want to use the negotiations to obtain more changes in all of the areas listed above. And there will be strong pressure for Australia to accept an investor-state complaints process, because four of the other bilateral FTAs include this process.

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