Why Australians should be worried about the TPP

admin —  August 2, 2013 — 12 Comments

by Ken Sievers, WikiLeaks Party member

What is the TPP?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the so-called “free trade” agreement currently under negotiation between the US, Australia and several other countries. [1] The US hopes to finalize these negotiations by October this year.

The goal of the TPP is to make it easier for big business and international corporations to act across borders without interference from states. The TPP will effectively erode state oversight in favour of corporate freedom in areas such as the environment, workers rights, food safety, internet freedom, the costs of medicine, and financial regulation. tpp

Probably the most dangerous feature of the agreement as it now stands is the introduction of an Investor State Disputes Settlement (ISDS) system, in which foreign corporations are allowed to sue countries in order to protect the profitability of their investments.

The TPP is another step in the direction of total market deregulation in the interests of international big business and is another threat to Australia’s national sovereignty. What is at stake is democratic society’s ability to regulate a market economy in the broad public interest. The TPP would constitute a further shift of power towards corporate rule without the normal means of democratic accountability, such as elections, advocacy and public protest.

Corporations can sue countries in extrajudicial tribunals

The ISDS provisions of the treaty authorize the establishment of supra-national tribunals, which would be independent of any other judicial system, to arbitrate disputes between corporations and states. A leaked text reveals the extreme corporate privilege that these investor-state tribunals constitute. Under the TPP, if a company believes an Australian law endangers its “expected future profits,” it can challenge the government at an investor-state tribunal. This tribunal has the power to overrule Australian laws and levy fines against the Australian state.

The fundamental assumption is that corporations can sue sovereign states, but sovereign states cannot sue corporations operating in their territory. These tribunals are a one-way street.

How do the tribunals work?

Such tribunals already exist as a part of the World Bank and the UN. Normally they consist of three corporate lawyers, unaccountable to any electorate, who rotate between acting as prosecutors (suing governments on behalf of corporations) and judges in other disputes. These tribunals are not bound by precedent and there is no appeal mechanism. When an investor-state tribunal rules in favour of a foreign investor, the government must hand the corporation an amount of taxpayer money decided by the tribunal.

The obvious consequence of the threat of such challenges by corporations is that states will either change or weaken their regulations to avoid the fines, or avoid enacting legislation which might attract a fine in the first place.

Some examples of decisions by these tribunals

Similar tribunals in other parts of the world have already ordered states to pay over $3.5 billion to investing companies under existing U.S. agreements. These include payments over toxic bans, land-use policies, forestry rules, etc. More than $14.7 billion remain in pending claims under U.S. agreements alone. Even when governments win, they often still have to pay for the tribunal’s costs and legal fees, which average $8 million per case. The TPP would expand the scope of policies that could be attacked. For example, the TPP could be used to block the Australian government’s requirement that cigarette companies use plain packaging. If the policy was successfully challenged, Australia would either need to pay “compensation” to the relevant corporations and/or remove the rule altogether.

The TPP is being negotiated in complete secrecy

Why don’t you know anything about the TPP? Because the negotiations are completely secret. It is so secret that even in the US, Members of Congress, state governors, the press, and the public are not allowed to see drafts of the agreement. At the same time there are over 600 business representatives serving as official U.S. trade advisors who have full access to an array of draft texts and play an inside role in the process. In Australia, a few people involved in the negotiations know the details, but they are not allowed to reveal them to Parliament, let alone the Australian public. The strategy is to minimize informed political and public debate until a deal is signed, and at this point any alterations become impossible.

Should Australians worry about the TPP?

Some might say that we in Australia have nothing to fear from the TPP. An article written last year stated that “the Australian Labor Government has made it clear that it does not support the inclusion of ISDS clauses despite immense pressure from corporations and the U.S. government.” As recently as 15 July this year, it was announced that the “new Trade Minister Richard Marles has confirmed Australia will not sign the agreement if it includes a so-called Investor State Disputes Settlement clause.” Without the ISDS clauses, it would seem there is no possibility that foreign corporations could appeal to investor-state tribunals to challenge our laws and policies. Still, there are two reasons why it is still necessary to raise the alarm now about the TPP negotiations:

1. The Liberals/Nationals would “consider” the inclusion of ISDS tribunals
Though the minority Labor government looks likely to reject the ISDS clauses, the Opposition who may win the next election, is ambivalent. The shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Julie Bishop, has stated they “would be prepared to consider” ISDS clauses in the TPP negotiations. The Liberal/National Coalition are generally hostile to regulation and in favour of big business and the so-called “free market”. They would likely be happy to empower these tribunals, as a means of permanently blocking government from making rules which might limit the profits of foreign and domestic corporations in the future. The TPP negotiations are already well advanced, and it would be easy for the Coalition, should they win the election, to quickly approve the TPP, including investor-state tribunals, before anyone realized what was happening.

2. The TPP represents part of an ongoing global push towards ever greater unaccountable corporate control
The TPP negotiations between Australia and the US must be seen in a global context. Not only are there many other South East Asian and Latin American countries involved, but there are similar moves in other parts of the world. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has already been in place for 20 years. The Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA) between the US and the European Union (also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) is currently under negotiation. This is also being negotiated secretly. Negotiations are also currently taking place for an EU-India Free Trade Agreement along similar lines, where “democracy is being sidelined for the blind pursuit of an unaccountable corporate-driven agenda.”

Investor tribunals are the new method for extending corporate control

At the recent World Economic Forum, the EU pushed for measures to protect investors with international investment agreements involving investor-state tribunals, but several Latin American countries protested. They have had many bad experiences with these tribunals which are used to protect the profits of foreign corporations: “Latin American countries have been taken to international courts at least 153 times, 34% of the total number of known cases.” There has also been a huge increase in such litigation. Until 1991 there were only 24 recorded cases of investor-state disputes, but in 2011 there were 450 known cases. In other words, investor-state tribunals are becoming the weapon of choice for corporations to avoid regulation in the countries where they operate, and their use is increasing year by year.

Some examples from Latin America: “In 2009, the government of Uruguay, following recommendations from the World Health Organization, increased the size of health warnings on cigarettes packages. A year later, it was sued for US$2 billion by tobacco giant Philip Morris which claimed Uruguay had expropriated its trademark. Back in 2000, when Argentina was in a deep economic crisis, the government eased people’s hardship by freezing electricity and water tariffs. It has since been battling over 40 lawsuits demanding multi-million dollar compensations. After an Ecuadorian court ordered Chevron to pay US$18 billion in damages and clean up for oil-drilling-related contamination in the Amazonian rainforest, Chevron counter-sued Ecuador arguing that the government breached its investment treaty with the US by allowing the legal case to continue.”

Will Australia stand up and say no?

Since there is a worldwide push for investor-state tribunals to protect the profits of foreign corporations, it is difficult to imagine politicians in Australia standing in the way of such powerful pressure from overseas investors. As we can see in foreign and domestic policy, the current leaders in Australia believe our future lies with the US, the EU, and their policies.  It is here, as in other areas, that the WikiLeaks Party can make a real difference. The WikiLeaks Party will break open the secrecy surrounding these negotiations, and will not be afraid to stand up for Australian self-determination. By doing so, the WikiLeaks Party will defend the interests of Australian small business, which is everywhere being squeezed by the leviathans of international big business.

[1] The twelve nations currently negotiating the TPP are the US, Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam. It also looks like Japan will join the negotiations as well.

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12 responses to Why Australians should be worried about the TPP

  1. People need to wake up. This is just another nail in the coffin to globalisation. Every government wants free trade agreements. There is no such thing. The fact that this agreement is being negotiated in secret by large corporations is only to serve their purpose. This agreement will be “Fast Tracked” in the USA by Obama meaning that it doesn’t have to go through congress. The american economy is failing and they need agreements like this so they can get their claws into other countries. The Australian government are just puppets and will sign off on it along with NZ (I’m a Kiwi).
    This essentially circumvents the government and democracy (whatever that is). Also look up Agenda 21 and ICLEI. Things are happening and have been for years. It’s about what are you going to do. Knowing this information and not doing anything is being complicite. Time for action is now!!

    • Agree with everything you said Mike. EXCEPT on the idea of globalisation. I think global legislation should be introduced (not in anyway whatsoever like this kinda of crap) more like the universal declaration of Human Rights.

      Humanity’s agreement to live together. ^.^

  2. If Australians or Americans are worried about foreigners taking over their country then they need to worry about the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), the ISDS (Investor States Disputes Settlement) and the other free trade agreements that are being set up around the world. They allow foreign corporations to control our governments and this cannot be undone!

  3. Does anyone out there want to be a citizen of News Corp or BHP Billiton or RioTinto?

    Didn’t think so.

    Don’t let Abbott sign away our sovereignty in the TPP with the American Government in their role as pimp in chief for the Corporatocracy.

  4. It’s hard to keep up with all of this government and corporate corruption. The time for less government is NOW! Australia belongs to the Aussie people NOT big USA business! If the PM and our elected officials prove they’re not acting in the best interests of the people, they need to be removed from office immediately!

    Petition here:
    http://aftinet.org.au/cms/node/627

  5. The link below is a petition against the TPP everyone should sign and share –
    http://www.avaaz.org/en/stop_the_corporate_death_star/

  6. we weill be signing thats why murdock pushed so hard to have abbot in. and if we try to police say animal rigts on those propertys that indonesian company brought they will sue our pants off same with any atempt to stop dredging GBR, nyone remember when canada tryed to stop LRP? cause it had 10000x the brain cancer rate of the old stuff… got there pants sued off them, well be signing abbts first words in aceptance speach basicly said that. time to learn to sy “thank you sir may i have enuther”

    • Posted on January 15, 2013 at 11:25 amPress Release – People PowerGovernment exposed to srecet international tribunals under Capital Markets Task Force asset sales agenda The New Zealand Government will be exposed to being sued by international investors if the Government continues to follow the Capital Markets …Government exposed to srecet international tribunalsunder Capital Markets Task Force asset sales agendaThe New Zealand Government will be exposed to being sued by international investors if the Government continues to follow the Capital Markets Task Force agenda on partial state asset sales.Under the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated, foreign investors in partially privatised energy companies would be able to seek damages against the Government for implementing any law or regulation that was claimed by foreign investors to be detrimental to their interests.For example the New Zealand Government could be sued for introducing energy efficiency policies which foreign investors could argue threaten their profit stream or share value. International investors could see any government regulations to protect or improve water quality as a threat to their profits.New Zealand investors would not have the same right to act to protect their investment.Already Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico are among countries adversely affected by large international corporations using the disputes provisions of so-called free trade agreements.The Investor State Disputes Settlement (ISDS) provision of the TPP which provides for the governments to be sued has been rejected by the Australian Government. There is no information that the New Zealand Government has also opposed such an attack on its national sovereignty.The New Zealand sharemarket has suffered from a loss of confidence following the collapse of crooked finance companies, unscrupulous financial advisors, company amalgamations and overseas takeovers.The Capital Markets Task Force report of December 2009 called for more quality stocks to be listed – identifying state assets as their target to fill the gaps in the stock market.The Capital Markets Task Force is driving an agenda of self interest in wanting to have more tickets to clip through increased share trading.Up to 80% of New Zealanders polled have stated their opposition to state asset sales.Any partial sale of state assets under the TPP ‘charter of international corporations’ rights’ is a further undermining of New Zealand sovereignty and ability to control its own energy policies – and economy.Content Sourced from scoop.co.nzOriginal urlAuthor: ScoopBlogPush

  7. makes me sick to my stomach ..really ay.
    somebody put the bat- light on already.

    Or should we just discuss.. (In Secret) …
    the programming of death row prisoner slave drones
    Maybe they can be used to eliminate these problem individuals from our sacred planet .. Im sure they would do anything to get out of a cage,
    let alone stick it to the man .

    Fuck the TRANCE-Pacific- Partnership Agreement..
    Doesnt really matter to me though!
    In the end. when everything is finished
    and the curtains close… where they are going
    ill be waiting for the lot of them

  8. This kind of secrecy in 2013 should be outlawed. If they were doing something that was good for the PEOPLE of the world there would be no need for such underhanded strong arm tactics. The emmense power of the global elite is on full display here and anyone who is not scared sleepless by this blatant power play needs to wake up now! Where is the mainstream reporting of this? why have Australia’s and the world newspapers and tv’s not go this insanity on the front page? Why is it left to alternative media to try and get the word out? Wake up world – time to start speaking out in earnest …. Or before you know it every freedom you have and you want for your children will be signed away in some back room secret deal!

    • ‘Scared sleepless’ is unfortunately an understatement. It seems that part of the agenda is to push people in positions like mine (and so many others like me) so far that they have no option left but to eliminate themselves, thereby leaving these political scumbags with no loose ends and clean hands to boot (from the public’s POV, at least). I’m constantly sick to my stomach, which as someone who has been chronically ill for 20 years is not really saying much, I suppose, but this ‘sickness’ goes deep down to my core and it’s spreading at a rate faster than Abbott’s skin-crawl factor.

  9. Question : has to be asked, is this the beginning of the end for the Australian way of life, why are the Americans with big multi national corporate’s like Bechtel and Chevron with gas projects leading this countries development of offshore LNG AND CSG now involved in building a new city in Northern Territory that is meant to be a super city to be developed in the build up for the Itchy’s Gas Project in Darwin, question needs to be asked who are they building it for, and at who’s expense – knowledge is power, and I just wonder if everyone knows about this new construction development that is meant to go ahead and for what reasons is it intended, as reading the above article I have my own opinion but like to hear from others (is this a Yukon capitalistic gold rush for resources at the expense of the Australian People with its politicians selling the farm)
    Lewis Jones

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