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We can't risk the Trans-Pacific Partnership

This week, the US Senate passed the controversial "fast track" bill – and in doing so – essentially clinched the deal in the lead up to the next round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Our Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, is saying the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal is just one week away from being sealed.

But it's not over yet.
If you've heard anything about the TPP, you'd know the risks this gargantuan deal poses to our democracy. This is a deal that would give multinational corporations more power to take legal action against Australian governments for passing laws that are in the public interest.

It could see an medicine prices increase, and put the future of food labelling policies at risk. But worst of all, we have no idea just how bad this deal is because most of the text and negotiations have been kept behind closed doors.

Your MP needs to know they have your support to speak out against this dirty deal. Will you write to them to let them know you oppose the TPP?

It's important to note that even if the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is agreed upon by the 12 negotiating countries, this is still far from over.

Once the TPP is signed, MPs and senators won't be able to make amendments to the agreement – but, Parliament will have a say on how and whether the agreement is implemented.

Let your MP know the you don't want any part of this dirty deal.

Not sure what to say?

  • Australians don't want to see us make an agreement which would allow foreign companies (including companies from the United States) to sue our government. Leaks show that the government is considering signing onto a version of the agreeement which includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses. This is risky: it would give foreign corporations the power to sue our governments for regulations that they make in the public interest -- but that could hurt corporations bottom line. Previous Australian governments, including the Howard and Gillard governments, refused to sign onto similar agreements. If the Abbott Government wants to protect the interests of the Australians, the Abbott Government should refuse to sign the TPP with ISDS in it, too.

  • The public deserves to see the text before an agreement is made. Right now, it seems that Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Prime Minister Tony Abbott intend to make an agreement before the text is public, and before the public or even MPs have had a chance to know what they're entering us into. (Some "implementing" legislation will still need to pass through Parliament - but it won't be possible for MPs or Senators to modify the text of the agreement at that stage.) This is closed-door democracy, and no way for us to do business.

  • What we know about the TPP is scary. All the information we have so far is from leaks to media or groups like Wikileaks, but what we know is bad news. Health experts are concerned about the implications for costs and prices of health products, Law Professors have said that it could have huge impacts on Intellectual Property and the criminalisation of private online activities, experts say the TPP poses risks to food labelling (read more here). This agreement is broad and sweeping - and from what we know about it so far, it's not something many Australians would be comfortable signing onto.

Want to know more about the TPP?

If the trade agreement includes Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions, it could mean that foreign-owned companies will have the power to sue the Australian Government for decisions that adversely impact on their investments in Australia. Worst of all, these cases would be played out in private international courts which only corporations have access to.

For more on the potential dangers of ISDS provisions, see ABC Radio National's story here.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (or "TPP" as it's known) is a major trade deal being negotiated by Australian and 11 other countries. If agreed to, the deal would account for 800 million people and 40 per cent of the world's economy – making it one of the world's largest trade deals.

Australia joined the TPP negotiations in 2011 under the Gillard Government, and negotiations have since continued under the Abbott Government, which have been largely led by the US.

The 12 negotiating countries include: Australia, the US, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Chile, Mexico, and Peru.
This is already being seen in the case of tobacco giant Phillip Morris, which is using an ISDS provision in the Australian-Hong Kong treaty to sue the Australian Government over its plain-packaging laws. When Quebec placed a ban on dangerous fracking processes in a local river, a trade agreement similar to the TPP made it possible for a foreign-owned energy company to file a $250 million lawsuit against the Canadian government.

It's already happening in El Salvador, where a Canadian company is suing the government for $315 million in "loss of future profits" because local citizens won a hard-fought campaign against a gold mine that threatened to contaminate their water supplies.

It's happening in Argentina, where the government imposed a freeze on water and energy bills during the GFC and was sued by an international utilities company.

It's even happening in Canada, where American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly is demanding $500 million in compensation — as well as changes to Canadian patent laws — because courts revoked two of its patents for lack of evidence around the drugs' supposed benefits.

For more on the potential dangers of ISDS provisions, see ABC Radio National's story here.
The treaty gives global pharmaceutical companies far-reaching power to extend their patents in order to prevent or delay the manufacture of cheaper generic medicines and curb subsidy programs that keep drugs more affordable in Australia and elsewhere. Imagine having to pay $50-$100 - or more - for a simple asthma inhaler. That's the average cost in the US, when they currently sell for less than $10 here.
...and dob you in for possible copyright infringement. We all know piracy is illegal, but this treaty gives US companies the power to pull strings that could make heavy-handed spying, fines, internet service disconnection and even criminal charges the norm for even the most minor and potentially unintentional infringements. And what about privacy?
When Quebec placed a ban on dangerous fracking processes in a local river, a trade agreement similar to the TPP made it possible for a foreign-owned energy company to file a $250 million lawsuit against the Canadian government. We really don't need foreign-owned mining companies bullying our government or preventing us from protecting our land.

For more information about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, click here to read the Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network's (AFTINET) explainer.

Send a message to your MP

Not sure what to say?

  • Introduce yourself. Explain you're a local constituent. If you voted for your MP, it's good to mention this.

  • Tell them your concerns. Be direct: "I don't want Cabinet signing off on a deal that would allow corporations in the United States to sue our government" or, "The text of the TPP should be publicly scrutinised before Australia decides to sign it".

  • Ask for a reply. Make sure you ask them a question, for example "Will you oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement?", and ask for a response. If they don't answer your question, follow-up and let them know they didn't provide an answer.

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