TPPA Media Reports of our Campaign
Media Reports of AFTINET TPPA Campaign
2012 Media Reports:
AFTINET Presentation on the dangers of Investor State Disputes at TPPA 14th Round:
The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 September 2012, 6.08pm
Big Tobacco warning at free-trade talks
High Court ruling on Philip Morris case and the dangers of Investor State Disputes:
The Conversation, 16 August 2012, 6.43am AEST Government wins first battle in plain packaging war, by Dr. Kyla Tienhaara. The Conversation Herald Sun, August 16 2012, 5:16PM Plain packaging for tobacco can't be delayed, say legal experts Herald Sun
Media Reports on Melbourne Round of Negotiations:
The Conversation: 20 March 2012, 6.15am AEST.
Australia should defend neighbours in Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations - by Dr Deborah Gleeson.
New Matilda: 15 March 2012.
Is Free Trade Worth it? by Ben Eltham
Asia Times Online: 13 March 2012.
Trade pact reveals US hunger – by Neena Bhandari
Green Left Weekly: 10 March 2012.
Secret trade deal threatens democracy - by Ewan Saunders
ABC Radio Australia: 9 March 2012, 22:51.
TPP Negotiators say FTA won’t harm healthcare – host Karon Snowden
Scoop: 9 March 2012, 11:11 am.
TPPA Negotiations Slowed By Resistance to US Demands – by Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
Brisbane Times: 9 March 2012.
Trans-Pacific trade negotiations 'on track' – by Chris Zappone
Business Spectator: 9 March 2012.
Pacific trade deal possible by end of year – by AAP
The Australian: 9 March 2012.
US eager to settle Trans-Pacific Partnership – by Glenda Korporaal
Inside Trade: 9 March 2012.
Australian Agricultural Exporters Hope For New U.S. Access In TPP, But No Progress So Far
IT News Australia: 8 March 2012.
Aussie negotiator declines TPP assurances - By John Hilvert
The Conversation: 8 March 2012, 3.00pm AEST.
Why Australia’s medicine cabinet is almost bare – by Simon Quilty
Australian Doctor: 6 March 2012.
Fear of drug price hikes with trade plans - by Alex Hayes
Community Radio "The Wire": 6 March 2012
ISDS, tobacco plain packaging and access to medicines – host Melissa Lahoud.
ABC Radio National Breakfast show: 6 March 2012.
US pressuring Pacific countries to agree to intellectual property policies which could restrict access to generic drugs
Canberra Times (oped): 5 March 2012.
Australia must fight for cheap life-saving medicines – by Kelly Nicholls
SBS Radio World News Program: 5 March 2012.
Concern over trade agreement effects on medicines – by Murray Silby
Herald Sun: 5 March 2012, 7:59PM.
Channel 7 newsreader Peter Mitchell mobbed by protesters on live TV - by Shannon Deery
Canberra Times: 6 March 2012.
Labor holds line on trade deal clauses – by Adam Gartrell
Sydney Morning Herald: 5 March 2012, 6:09pm.
Labor standing firm on Pacific trade deal – by Adam Gartrell, AAP Diplomatic Correspondent
IT News Australia: 5 March 2012, 9:10am.
ICT groups take aim at Trans Pacific Partnership - By John Hilvert
The Age: 3 March 2012.
Dr David Legge’s letter on TPP to The Age:
Sydney Morning Herald: 2 March 2012, 11:53am.
US business seeks Australian legal loophole – by Chris Zappone
Common Dreams: 2 March 2012.
Crikey! Australia Shocks Corporate America on Trade – by Sarah Anderson
ABC Radio The World Today: 1 March 2012, 18:00.
PM urged to block US on intellectual property rights – by Eleanor Hall
Medical Search: 1 March 2012
NGOs call on govt to prioritise access to generic drugs - by Public Health Association of Australia.
Medical Journal of Australia, 196: 1-3.
Challenges to Australia's national health policy from trade and investment agreements - by Gleeson D, Tienhaara K and Faunce T (2012)
ABC Radio, World Today: 1 March 2012.
PM Urged to block US on intellectual property rights – host Eleanor Hall, reporter Anna MacDonald interviews Rob Lake about criticisms of the TPPA because of its threat to affordable medicine for people with HIV / Aids.
ABC Radio Australia - 28 February 2012, 23:15 AEST
NGOs warn against corporate influence on trade talks – host Sen Lam interviews Dr Patricia Ranald.
Sydney Morning Herald – 25 February 2012.
Health groups gasp over tobacco show plans - by Mark Metherell
2011 Media Reports:
Sydney Morning Herald - Beware the limits of latest free trade deal - 15/11/2011 - available from: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/beware-the-limits-of-latest-free-trade-deal-20111115-1ngax.html#ixzz1dsDeL5Ud
Pacific Island News Agency (PINA) - Pacific free-trade deal has hidden dangers: NGO - 15/11/2011 - available from: http://www.pina.com.fj/index.php?p=pacnews&m=read&o=17001637594ec1883b4b3951b118c4
ABC Radio - PACBeat Program: Pacific warned of hidden dangers in Obama's new TPP push - 14/11/2011 - available from: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pacbeat/stories/201111/s3364650.htm
ABC Radio: Pacific free-trade deal has hidden dangers: NGO - 14/11/2011 - available from: http://australianetworknews.com/stories/201111/3364548.htm?desktop
Crikey - Beware of what lurks beneath free trade agreements - 14/11/2011- available from: From: http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/11/14/beware-of-what-lurks-beneath-free-trade-agreements/
ABC Radio: Pacific free trade deal divides commentators - 14/11/2011 - available from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-11-14/pacific-free-trade-deal-divides-commentators/3666280?section=business
SBS Radio - World News Program: Momentum for new free-trade regime - 14/11/2011 - available from: http://www.sbs.com.au/podcasts/Podcasts/radionews/episode/192473/Momentum-for-new-free-trade-regime
Philippine Star - APEC: Still nothing after two decades - 14/11/2011 - available from: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=747771&publicationSubCategoryId=66
ABC Radio - PM Program: Trans-Pacific free trade stalled by US proposals - 11/11/2011 - available from: http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2011/s3362855.htm
Media Report, 30/10/2011, on Vietnam's reaction to proposed US State Owned Enterprise Chapter: http://www.tuoitrenews.vn/cmlink/tuoitrenews/business/vietnam-rejects-us-push-on-state-firms-in-trade-talks-1.49713
Opinion Piece, 26/10/2011, on leaked US IP proposals impacting on access to Medicines and Health: http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/10/26/us-proposals-give-big-pharma-more-power-over-patents-prices/
or if you don't subscribe to Crikey follow this link: http://www.latrobe.edu.au/news/articles/2011/opinion/trans-pacific-partnership-agreements
Also now on the Croakey Blog site: http://blogs.crikey.com.au/croakey/2011/10/27/us-wants-to-give-pharma-more-power-over-our-medicines-policy/
Media report, 21/09/2011, on Japanese Agriculture moves towards the TPPA from Western farm Press (USA): http://westernfarmpress.com/government/usa-rice-japanese-ag-leaders-discuss-trade-issues
Media Report, 20/09/2011, on New Zealand resistance in the Information Technology sector to US proposals on Intellectual Property rights in the TPPA, from IT Wire: http://www.itwire.com/opinion-and-analysis/open-sauce/49855-nz-bid-to-resist-onerous-trade-deal
Media Report, 19/09/2011, on Philippines current position on joining the TPPA from Business Inquirer (Philippines): http://business.inquirer.net/20095/philippines-sees-no-tpp-eu-trade-pacts-in-next-two-years
Media Reports resulting from the Launch on 1st September 2011 of AFTINET's "Don't Trade Away health" leaflet: New trade agreement threatens Australia’s laws on medicines and tobacco
Patent talks lift fear of drugs price rise
Eighth Round of Negotiations in Chicago, United States of America
Media Release, 08/09/2011, from medicines Sans Frontier and Doctors without Borders: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/press/release.cfm?id=5519&cat=press-release&ref=home-sidebar-right
Media Report, 12/09/2011, on New Zealand US Council views in National Business Review (New Zealand): http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/steady-progress-tpp-says-jacobi-cw-100380
Media Report, 12/09/2011, on US White paper on Medicines from AAP: http://aap.newscentre.com.au/cpsunat/110914/library/free_trade/26645613.html
Media Report, 12/09/2011, on the threat to generic medicines from the TPPA, from News Medical: http://www.news-medical.net/news/20110912/Access-to-lifesaving-generic-medicines-threatened-by-US-trade-pact.aspx
Media Report, 12/09/2011, on calls from health groups to ban both alcohol and tobacco from the TPPA from New Zealand Herald: http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/call-bar-alcohol-and-tobacco-tpp-cw-100374
Media Report, 13/09/2011, from New Zealand Union – the National Distribution Union on US White Paper on Medicines from Yahoo News: http://au.news.yahoo.com/queensland/a/-/latest/10248464/us-white-paper-on-medicines-window-dressing/
Media Report, 13/09/2011, on International Civil Society views of US White Paper on Medicines from Voxy (New Zealand): http://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/us-white-paper-medicines-window-dressing/5/101280Media Release, 13/09/2011, by Dr Jane Kelsey on US White Paper on Medicines from Scoop (New Zealand): http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1109/S00188/us-white-paper-on-medicines-issued-at-tppa-talks-in-chicago.htm
Media Report, 13/09/2011, on US White Paper on Medicines from Trading Room: http://www.tradingroom.com.au/apps/view_breaking_news_article.ac?page=/data/news_research/published/2011/9/256/catf_110913_090200_9553.html
Media Report, 13/09/2011, on US White Paper on Medicines from New Zealand Herald: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10751470
Blog Piece, 13/09/2011, by Rashmi Rangnath asking if the stakeholder meetings in Chicago were simply lip service: http://www.publicknowledge.org/blog/was-tpp-stakeholders-forum-just-lip-serviceCommentary, 14/09/2011, on US White Paper on Medicines from Intellectual Property Watch (IP-Watch): http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2011/09/14/ustr-white-paper-on-trade-in-medicines-raises-questions/
Media Report, 14/09/2011, on current state of negotiations from the perspective of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions from Voxy (New Zealand): http://www.voxy.co.nz/business/tppa-talks-show-signs-mounting-conflicts-ctu/5/101351
Media Release, 14/09/2011, from the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions from Business Scoop (New Zealand): http://business.scoop.co.nz/2011/09/14/tppa-more-movement-on-customs-queues-than-dairy-exports/
Media report, 14/09/2011, on US delays in presenting text on sensitive topics in the TPPA from Reuters: http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFS1E78D1YP20110914
Media Opinion Piece, 15/09/2011, on the risks to health from trade agreements by Dr David Legge and Dr Deborah Gleeson in the Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/public-health-at-risk-in-trade-talks-20110914-1k94z.html
Blog Piece, 15/09/2011, by Sharon Treat asking why the US is negotiating to reduce access to affordable medicines: http://sharon-treat.blogspot.com/2011/09/why-is-us-government-negotiating-trade.html
Blog Piece, 16/09/2011, by Dr Deborah Gleeson about undermining access to medicines in trade negotiations: http://theconversation.edu.au/trade-talks-set-to-undermine-access-to-medicines-for-the-worlds-poor-3392
Media Report, 16/09/2011, on Health group opposition to threats posed in the TPPA on tobacco and medicines from the Centre fro Policy Development: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/09/16/3915142/health-groups-oppose-threats-on.html
Media Report, 16/09/2011, on the conclusion of the TPPA negotiations in Chicago and the controversial aspects from Progress Illinois: http://progressillinois.com/posts/content/2011/09/16/controversial-trans-pacific-trade-free-talks-end
Corporate opinion piece, 18/09/2011, from big pharma in support of the USTR’s white paper on access to medicines from Securing Pharma: http://www.securingpharma.com/40/articles/1041.php
Our US civil society allies have identified the following media links to reports on the Chicago Round of Negotiations:
Pro-Labor Activists in Chicago Protest Trans-Pacific Partnership Pact (Chicago Tribune)
Activists Protest Trade Summit (WGN-TV)
Union Leaders Call for Fair Deal on Free Trade in Pacific Rim (Chicago Sun-Times)
Ben & Jerry Shut Out While Delivering Message Demanding a Fair Trade Deal (Progress Illinois)
Protests Target Trade Pact Talks (Newstips)
Chicago Rally Kicks Off TPPA Challenge (Voxy News)
Labor Day Protestors Demand Jobs and Fair Trade Deals (Peoples World)
The Activist Beat with Rose Aguilar (KALW Radio)
Labor Day Rally Calls for Fair Trade Agreement (Progress Illinois)
How Sweet This Protest Will Be Thanks to Ben & Jerry's (Chicago Talks)
Chicago Hosting Obama White House International Trade Meeting in September (Chicago Sun-Times)
Labor Unions Endorse Protest of Eighth Round of TPP Talks in Chicago (Inside US Trade)
Deputy USTR Casts Doubt on US Tabling TPP Labor Proposal Next Month (Inside US Trade)
Labor Day Showdown: Can Advocates Stop 'NAFTA of the Pacific'? (Huffington Post)
"NAFTA of the Pacific" Negotiations Begin Tuesday (Economy in Crisis)
Trans-Pacific Trade Pact Called New NAFTA (Peoples World)
Protestors: Pacific Trade Pact Will Help Export Jobs (WBEZ - Chicago NPR Affiliate)
Labor Unions Rally at Grant Park (ABC 7 Chicago)
Chicago: Labor Unions to Rally at Grant Park (Huffington Post)
Deal with Asian Pacific Countries Draws Labor Day Protest Here (Chicago Tribune)
Labor Day Events Included Union Rally (My FOX Chicago)
Pacific Trade Summit Draws Labor Day Protest (CBS Chicago)
Unions Protest Trans-Pacific Partnership (WIFR Radio)
Celebran Labor Day en Chicago (Vivelo Hoy)
Trans-Pacific Partnership (WBBM Newsradio)
Labor Day Rally in Grant Park (WLUW Radio)
Stand Up! Chicago on Free Trade (The Rick Smith Show)
Trans-Pacific Partnership: NAFTA of the Pacific (Economy in Crisis)
What's in the Pacific Trade Deals Currently Being Negotiated (Your Call Radio)
Gallery: Union Leaders Call for Fair Deal on Free Trade in Pacific Rim (Chicago Sun-Times)
Labor Day Chicago 2011 (YouTube)
Seventh Round of Negotiations in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Media reports on comments from Professor Jane Kelsey and Dr Patricia Ranald from Ho Chi Minh City made about New Zealand Prime Minister John Key's address to the Australian parliament are available from:
Fifth Round of Negotiations in Santiago, Chile
SBS Radio “News of the World” interview with AFTINET Trade Justice Campaigner, Harvey Purse, on Civil Society calls to “Release the Text”.The story is towards the end of the podcast. It is available from: http://www.sbs.com.au/podcasts/Podcasts/world-view/episode/144146/World-News-Australia-15-February.
Tobacco Industry & TPPA:
SMH - January 17th 2011 - "Fresh assault on anti-smoking laws" by Julie Robotham: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/wellbeing/fresh-assault-on-antismoking-laws-20110116-19slv.html
The Herald-Sun - January 16th 2011: "Big tobacco takes fight over plain cigarette packs to free trade agreement". http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/big-tobacco-takes-fight-over-plain-cigarette-packs-to-free-trade-agreement/story-e6frf7jx-1225988764811
2010 Media Reports:
Fourth Round of Negotiations in Auckland generated further media reports around civil society campaigns on the TPPA.
Media Reports on the new book: No Ordinary Deal - Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement.
December 14 2010: Interview on ABC PM programme with AFTINET on the TPPA and the PC Report
December 10 2010: Ken Davidson's column in The Age on the TPP book and the PC report
November 18 2010: ABC Radio National Late Night Live - Interview on the TPP book with Jane Kelsey, Lori Wallach and Pat Ranald
November 15 2010: ABC Radio National PM current affairs programme Interview with Lori Wallach
Radio Australia Pacific Beat and Asia Pacific Programmes Interview with Pat Ranald and Lori Wallach
During March 2010 the following articles related to our TPPA Campaign appeared in Australian media.
- This article is an Op-ed by Professor Thomas Faunce which appeared in the Canberra Times on 15th March 2010.
- This article appeared on 16th March 2010 in the Sydney Morning Herald and Brisbane Times. It quotes Dr Pat Ranald (Convenor of AFTINET)
- This item was on ABC Radio National's PM program 15th March 2010. It features Professor Peter Drahos (ANU), Associate Professor David Legge (Public Health Association) and Harvey Purse (AFTINET Trade Justice Campaigner) - it can be heard at http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2010/s2846445.htm
- This article appeared in The Age on 15th March 2010 and quotes ACTU President Sharan Burrow
- This article "Democracy a loser in trade free-for-all" appeared on the Age on 29th March 2010
- This is a letter from Trade Minister Simon Crean to the Canberra Times, March 17, 2010 in response to the article by Professor Thomas Faunce
- 3CR, Melbourne Community radio, "Earth Matters" interview broadcast on 25 April 2010, with Harvey Purse Trade Justice Campaigner for AFTINET on the TPPA.
Author: By The Canberra Times: Publication: The Canberra Times (Mon 15 Mar 2010):
When Barack Obama meets Kevin Rudd, near the top of their agenda will be the expanded Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Negotiations for this regional trade agreement begin in Melbourne today and continue until Friday. Without a feasibility study or widespread public consultation, Australia has already begun working with the United States, Chile, Peru and the P4 group of nations (New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam) to expand the existing Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) signed in 2005.
Of particular concern is the threat that the TPPA will impose a so- called ''investor-state'' dispute settlement process.
This would allow US multinationals to sue Australian state or federal governments when those companies believed that laws (for example, protecting the environment or public health) have damaged their investments. Surveys have consistently shown that most Australians consider the Free Trade Agreement (the AUSFTA) the Howard government signed with the US in 2004 was a bad deal.
They're right. In 2007-08, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade statistics show imports from the US continued to increase more substantially than our exports.
We didn't get to export our sugar; the export of lamb and beef was delayed; and we were forced to make changes to our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (the first time a trade deal so directly altered the health policy of another nation).
These PBS changes make it harder to keep down prices of new drugs that aren't proven to work better than existing products. Lobbying by US firm Baxter Healthcare also forced AUSFTA provisions that required then health minister Tony Abbott to recommend privatisation of blood fractionation to the US (it refused). Less well known was that the AUSFTA included provisions that loosened restrictions on US companies investing in Australia and required they be regulated no differently than Australian companies.
Exceptions had to be specified they included social welfare and health, but not water or energy.
The result was that when the Snowy Mountains Scheme privatisation was debated, the Howard government was advised that a plan to restrict US investment to 35 per cent of total shares with management based in Australia would breach the AUSFTA and potentially expose us to trade sanctions in other areas. We comforted ourselves that at least the AUSFTA didn't include an ''investor- state'' provision.
So why would any Australian government want another trade deal with the US? Since the AUSFTA, our balance of trade with the US has worsened. Why should we (particularly after the corporate irresponsibility in the global financial crisis and the growing threat of climate change) let an ''investor- state'' provision impede the capacity of future Australian governments to regulate water and energy unfettered in the national interest? US pharmaceutical companies have signalled they want more changes to the PBS.
They don't like the ''anti-evergreening'' amendments Labor pushed through when it had a majority in the Senate.
These importantly proved that Australia interpreted the AUSFTA as not encouraging drug company patent dodges that unreasonably increased medicine prices. US drug companies no doubt also see the TPPA as a way of eroding the capacity of the Pharmaceutical Management Agency of New Zealand system to scientifically evaluate an objectively fair price for a new drug. They'll probably do this in part by requiring New Zealand drug regulators not approve a generic medicine until it's proven no patent is being breached an ''evergreening'' tactic Australia accepted under article 17.10.4 of the AUSFTA.
The PBS has unquestioned democratic legitimacy.
It's one of the few components of our domestic health policy that has the backing of a constitutional referendum. The problem with allowing trade deals to alter our public health and environmental policy is that they then exert (through the threat of trade sanctions in a globalised economy) a type of quasi-sovereignty over the capacity of our democratically elected parliaments to pass laws in the national interest.
No referendum takes place about the benefits of a trade deal. In the AUSFTA development process Australia's negotiators ran a defensive approach on health policy.
This time they should be more proactive just as the South Koreans were in demanding a PBS-type system in their recent bilateral trade negotiations with the US.
Australia, for example, is entitled to request reciprocal changes in US health-care and medicine policies. It's in our national interest to require the US to have stronger provisions preventing ''evergreening'' of drug patents and restrict corporate influence over drug safety regulators. We'd benefit if US federal drug purchasing programs were required by the TPPA to recognise that pharmaceutical innovation can be equally based on scientific assessment of its comparative cost-effectiveness, as well as the operation of competitive markets (the latter requiring strong anti-monopoly laws).
Australia likewise will gain if our TPPA negotiators seek inclusion of a provision requiring the US to continue supporting a federal medicines cost-effectiveness advice agency and remove any legislative inhibitions on its evolution into a PBS-type system.
This would create a level playing field for the entry of Australian pharmaceuticals into the US market. Our negotiators should argue for a provision that even if a drug is in patent in Australia it can be manufactured in Australia for sale in other TPPA countries where it's out of patent.
The TPPA should expand the compulsory licensing exceptions that allow drug patents to be broken (with reasonable compensation) in a public health emergency. The TPPA should encourage reward of public interest disclosures that reveal fraud in regulatory or funding systems relevant to other provisions in the deal.
Australian negotiators should demand that the US Government pass laws reintroducing the research use exemption that allows public- funded university researchers to experiment with the chemistry of drugs that are in patent without having to pay royalties.
Associate Professor Thomas Faunce is at the Australian National University's College of Law and Medical School, where Ruth Townsend is a lecturer.
Nations ponder terms for Pacific free trade - JACOB SAULWICK NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT - March 16, 2010
SIX years after Australia entered its controversial free trade agreement with the United States, the Trade Minister, Simon Crean, said ''everything is on the table'' for a new agreement featuring the world's largest economy.
Under President Barack Obama, the US has been pressing for increased trade liberalisation in Asia and yesterday negotiations started on a new regional agreement to include Australia, the US, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, Brunei, Peru and Vietnam.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement is being seen as the precursor to a broader Asian trade bloc, and has the potential to change the trade terms between its member countries from their existing bilateral arrangements.
Mr Crean appeared to indicate yesterday that some of the most controversial aspects of the US agreement would be revisited as part of the new regional trade push.
One issue that flared was whether the deal would include a mechanism allowing companies to sue a government if it introduced laws that hindered trade interests.
Asked yesterday if the new agreement could include this type of mechanism, which was left out of the US deal, Mr Crean said: ''We approached this on the basis that everything is on the table. No exclusions … clearly we understand the fundamental importance of investment as part of the new trade equation.''
Mr Crean's office later moved to clarify his reply, however, indicating the government remained very reluctant to include the mechanism.
''We continue to have serious reservations about the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement provisions … and Australian negotiators will be making this clear,'' a spokesman for Mr Crean said.
The convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, Pat Ranald, said dispute mechanisms included in the North American Free Trade Agreement had allowed American firms to sue the Canadian and Mexican governments over environmental regulations.
''We don't think that corporations need any additional rights to governments in the Australian legal context,'' Dr Ranald said.
Fears new regional trade deal to undermine public interest
Stephen Long reported this story on Monday, March 15, 2010 18:42:00
MARK COLVIN: Negotiations began today for a new Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement. The Australian Government's promoting the proposed deal as a means of furthering regional ties and opening up export markets.
But critics fear that it could be used to undermine Australia's pharmaceutical scheme - the PBS, and other public health initiatives which big American corporations don't like. Comments by Australia's ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley, have heightened those fears. He's reported to have told a US hearing on the planned agreement that everything was on the table.
A coalition of community groups is now calling on the Government to ensure that the PBS is safeguarded in any deal, along with labelling laws for genetically-engineered food, and rules providing for local content in media.
Economics Correspondent Stephen Long.
STEPHEN LONG: Is it a means of opening up markets in the region? Or a chance for Big Pharma in the US to renew its unfinished business from the US-Australia free trade deal.
Canberra is the venue for the opening talks on a planned Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement involving the US, Australia, Chile, Peru, Brunei, Singapore, New Zealand and Vietnam. Countries with a combined GDP of $18 Trillion and a combined population of 470 million.
This is how Australia's trade minister, Simon Crean, is pitching it.
SIMON CREAN: It has the basis for being the bridge to a free trade area for the Asia Pacific.
STEPHEN LONG: But in non-government organisations, the plan has people worried.
HARVEY PURSE: Our major concerns are that there are a number of issues that were felt very strongly by the Australian community back in 2004 when we were negotiating the Australia/US FTA.
STEPHEN LONG: Harvey Purse is the trade justice campaigner with the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network. It's a coalition of more than 30 church, trade union, community sector and aid organisations.
HARVEY PURSE: Amongst those were claims by Big Pharma in the US wanting to have a real go at the PBS and, in many ways try and …
STEPHEN LONG: The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
HARVEY PURSE: The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The idea being, they saw that as a restriction to trade.
STEPHEN LONG: Professor Peter Drahos is a professor of intellectual property law at the ANU.
PETER DRAHOS: The US industry does not like the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme because it does offer other countries a model for how to regulate the price and patents of medicines. And so for a long time the US industry has sought to undermine or erode the price control aspects of the PBS.
And so we can assume very safety that in this negotiation, the US pharmaceutical industry will be seeking to white ant, as much as it can, the PBS.
STEPHEN LONG: These concerns are shared by the Public Health Association. Its spokesman is David Legge, associate professor in the school of public health at La Trobe University.
DAVID LEGGE: From a public health point of view, one of the most important issues is not allowing the large US pharmaceutical manufacturers sabotage the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
STEPHEN LONG: Objectively, the Australian Government has no interest in altering the PBS; it's seen as a model worldwide for how to contain the cost of medicine. But what if there were other benefits on offer, such as an end to restrictions on rural exports, should the Government relax the scheme?
DAVID LEGGE: That is exactly the risk, is that the trade-offs take the issue out of the hands of the health policy people and maybe even the government finance people because other vested interests in Australia are so excited by the prospects which are raised.
STEPHEN LONG: Comments by Australia's ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley, have heightened concerns.
HARVEY PURSE: Just over a week ago, our new ambassador to the US, Mr Beazley, is reported to have said to the US trade commission that everything was on the table.
STEPHEN LONG: Health and environment groups also fear that the US will push for an erosion of standards on labelling of genetically modified foods.
HARVEY PURSE: Organisations such as Monsanto have actually put up that GE labelling is an issue for them and they want that removed in this round of talks.
STEPHEN LONG: No pain, no gain, is a motto that extends to trade negotiations. Critics want assurances that in the quest for greater overseas markets, the public interest won't be traded away.
MARK COLVIN: Stephen Long.
Free-trade talks turn to the Pacific
TIM COLEBATCH AND BEN SCHNEIDERS - March 15, 2010
WITH the Doha trade negotiations becalmed, negotiations will begin today on what Australia hopes will be the next best thing - a free-trade agreement covering eight Pacific nations.
Negotiators from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam will sit down in Melbourne for the first round of talks aimed at merging and extending their existing free-trade agreements.
Trade Minister Simon Crean said the start of negotiations on the ''Trans-Pacific Partnership'' is a milestone on the way to free trade in Asia and the Pacific.
''The participation of the US is an important signal of the Obama administration's commitment to the region, and an encouraging sign of broader US engagement on trade policy issues,'' he said.
But it could also be a handicap.
The US Congress has already rejected three free-trade agreements negotiated by the Bush administration, and insiders say none will be passed until the political climate changes.
Today also sees the start of free-trade negotiations with Korea. Australia is now negotiating free trade agreements with 30 countries through seven separate negotiations.
Trade unions warn the talks must not go down the same path as previous trade deals, which they said favoured ''substantial new opportunities for investors over good jobs for workers''.
In a joint statement ahead of the talks, peak union groups from the US, New Zealand, Singapore and Australia have called for more consultation, and that any agreement must protect internationally recognised labour rights such as collective bargaining.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the proposed deal should not override domestic government procurement policies to promote development. She said the trade deal must be ''fair''.
''The Pacific trade agreement must be well balanced, create good jobs, protect labour rights, and lead to both sustainable economic development and a healthy environment,'' she said.
Democracy a loser in trade free-for-all
Author: KENNETH DAVIDSON- Kenneth Davidson is a senior columnist.
Voters don't count as governments succumb to market forces.
THERE is a crisis in global governance. The Westphalia system that emerged from Europe's 30-year war in the mid-17th century saw the demise of the barons and the Catholic Church as global powers, replaced by the sovereignty of the secular nation state, which became the absolute reference point in global relations.
This came under threat during the 1980s when the spread of cheap communications and international transport allowed trans-national corporations to globalise the production of goods and services.
This dwarfed the impact of the earlier globalisation of trade in terms of its social and economic impacts. Importantly, the globalisation of trade enhanced the powers of governments while the globalisation of production enhanced the power of trans-national corporations at the expense of government.
Free trade in goods could be sold as a benefit to people. The new globalisation wave in the form of free trade in production, where even labour is treated as a commodity, is promoted by leading industrial nations — Japan, the US and Europe — according to how it advances the interests of their trans-national corporations.
The uneven development of the new wave of globalisation — fast in finance, technology transfer, skilled labour movements and international terrorism and slow in governance, social attitudes, international regulation and the fight against global warming, crime, terrorism and disease — has created winners and losers both within countries as well as between countries.
It is not surprising that the winners want to eliminate the old rules governing trade and commerce and replace them with rules that enhance market relations at the expense of government mediation.
The new trade agreements are fundamentally undemocratic. The negotiations are conducted in secret and the agreements are structured in a way that will make it virtually impossible for future governments to rescind agreements that are found to be unpopular.
Behind the mantra of the superiority of the market — reinforced by privatisation, low taxes and small government — is the aim of shifting the decision-making process from the one-person, one-vote democratic formula to the one-dollar, one-vote market formula.
Hence the secrecy surrounding the negotiations of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which began in Melbourne two weeks ago. The agreement is designed to replace a number of individual bilateral free trade agreements with an agreement embracing Australia, the US, NZ, Chile, Singapore, Brunei, Peru and Vietnam.
As the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network — which represents a wide range of union, church, health, environment and pensioner groups — points out, US business wants to dismantle the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, local-content rules for the media, labelling of GE food, regulation of foreign investment and government purchasing policies that support local employment. They also want an investor complaints process that will give special rights to international corporations to sue governments for damages if legislation to protect the environment or human health undermines profitability.
The government says that all these issues "are on the table for negotiation". Why? Well, that's a secret. Further, any agreement made under this process will be signed off by cabinet before it is presented to parliament as a fait accompli apart from "procedural" matters requiring parliament legislation.
The Howard government put Australian conditions restricting the right of employers to bring to Australia temporary skilled and semi-skilled workers on the auction block to be negotiated away in return for market access for Australian exports at the Doha round of multinational trade negotiations in 2005. These negotiations are now in abeyance.
Specifically, the official position is that Australia is prepared to remove the requirement for employers to search for skilled and semi-skilled labour before seeking 457 temporary visas for this kind of labour.
The unions justifiably saw this as a union-busting exercise and extracted a promise from the then Labor opposition to remove this proposal from the Australian offer to the stalled Doha round.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd agreed to this request and it was written into the ALP platform before the election.
Under the influence of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the government has made a policy decision that it will not withdraw the offer on the grounds that it would amount to "bad faith" if it were to do so.
A former Australian prime minister, John Gorton, said that the department was infected by the puppy dog syndrome, that is: roll over and get your tummy tickled. It still is.
As this assault on national sovereignty continues, the question is whether the "market system" can fill the vacuum as the power of the state withers away. Certainly markets require the rule of law to function otherwise they become mafia systems, as has occurred in Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile, there's an uneasy feeling that nobody is in charge. The global financial crisis occurred for this reason.
Letter from Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean to the Canberra Times
March 17, 2010
There is an urgent need to correct the record after the publication of the article, "Big pitfalls and fewer freedoms in the new trade agreement with the US" (Canberra Times March 15, pg9) by Thomas Faunce and Ruth Townsend. The article gives an incorrect account of the Trans-Pacific
Partnership talks that are being held in Melbourne this week. To paint these talks as simply just involving Australia and the US is wrong. The partnership involves eight nations. The goal of the negotiations is to find a pathway to a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. It is not a reopening of the FTA with the US that came into force in 2005. It is misleading to imply that in the lead-up to the first round of talks there has not been engagement with the Australian public. I tabled a
document on November 26, 2008, in Parliament containing a summary of views gathered through a consultation process undertaken by my department. Those consultations continue and views are always welcome and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
It is wrong to suggest that we are about to re-open obligations in relation to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme that were settled in 2005. If there are to be any changes to the scheme in the future, it would be part of a domestic policy debate in Australia. It does not concern me what the US drug companies are pushing for because decision about the scheme are made in the national interest by the Australian Government. The article also argues there is a threat to Australia from
the introduction of an investor-state dispute settlement provision through the TPP. We will give our negotiating partners a chance to pitch their case on the issue, but let me say we have serious reservations about the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement provision in this agreement. We do not want new layers of red tape under the guise of trade liberalization. Australian negotiators will make this clear at the Melbourne meeting which concludes today.
Simon Crean, Minister for Trade, Parliament House
On Sunday 25th April 2010 the Earth Matters program on Melbourne’s 3CR community radio station broadcast an interview with Harvey Purse, AFTINET Trade Justice Campaigner, on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The interview takes up just over 15 minutes of the program.
The program was rebroadcast on 10-20 community radio stations around Australia over the week that followed.
This is a short summary of the TPPA interview:
Concerns about a new free trade agreement which could make it hard for Australia to create environmental laws. And a very different approach to the economy: a new project to get people meeting their neighbours and sharing stuff.
Select this link to listen on the 3CR website – available until 8 May 2010 – Earth Matters Podcast.
The podcast will be available on our website by during the week starting 10 May 2010.
About “Earth Matters”:
[img_assist|nid=350|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=96]Earth Matters presents local, national and international environmental issues with a strong social justice bent. Interviewees range from individual activists to well-known environmental commentators and scientists.
Bringing fresh environmental news and perspectives to our listeners, Earth Matters contributes to public debate, reports on under-reported activist campaigns and informs the community on critical issues.
This links to the Earth Matters webpage on 3CR: http://www.3cr.org.au/EarthMatters.