January 7th, 2015

AUSTRALIA MUST OPPOSE THE TPP!

At the end of this post is a range of current articles on the TPP.

WHAT IS THE TPP?
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is so-called "free trade" agreement being negotiated right now between the US, Australia and several other countries. The US hopes to finalize these negotiations as soon as possible. The most dangerous feature of the agreement is the introduction of an Investor State Disputes Settlement System (ISDS), in which foreign corporations are allowed to sue countries in order to protect the profitability of their investments.

TPP

CORPORATIONS CAN SUE COUNTRIES IN EXTRAJUDICIAL TRIBUNALS
The ISDS provisions of the treaty authorize supra-national tribunals independent of any other judicial system to settle disputes between corporations and countries. A leaked text reveals the settlement of disputes is based on the system of extreme corporate privilege called the investor-state tribunal. Under the TPP, if a company believes an Australian law endangers its "expected future profits," it can take this dispute to an investor-state tribunal. This tribunal has the power to overrule Australian laws and levy fines against the Australian government.

THE GOAL OF THE TPP IS COMPLETE DEREGULATION
Rather than dealing with trade, the real focus of the TPP is remove laws and policies in areas such as the environment, workers rights, food safety, internet freedom, the costs of medicine, and financial regulation. The TPP treaty is nothing less than an international framework to deregulate the activities of corporations by removing a countries' ability to enact laws or regulations which might hinder the profitability of a foreign corporation. The fundamental assumption in these negotiations is that corporations can sue sovereign states, but sovereign states cannot sue corporations operating in their territory. These tribunals are a one way street.

THE TPP MEANS RULE BY FOREIGN CORPORATIONS INSTEAD OF DEMOCRACY

The TPP constitutes an unprecedented frontal attack on a century of progressive domestic policy. At stake is nothing less than a democratic society's ability to regulate a market economy in the broad public interest. This would constitute an unprecedented shift of power towards corporate rule without the normal means of democratic accountability, such as elections, advocacy and public protest.

HOW DO THESE TRIBUNALS WORK?
These tribunals already exist as a part of the World Bank and the UN. They are made up of three corporate lawyers, unaccountable to any electorate, who rotate between suing governments for corporations before these tribunals and acting as the "judges" in other disputes. Tribunals are not bound by precedent and there is no appeal mechanism. When an investor-state tribunal rules in favour of the foreign investor, the government must hand the corporation an amount of taxpayer money decided by the tribunal. The obvious consequence of even the threat of such a challenge is that countries either change their laws to avoid the fines or do not enact legislation which might attract a fine.

SOME EXAMPLES OF DECISIONS BY THESE TRIBUNALS

Such tribunals have already ordered governments to pay over $3.5 billion in investor-state cases under existing U.S. agreements. This includes 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 must 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 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 alternations become impossible.

THE LIBERALS/NATIONALS WOULD ACCEPT ISDS TRIBUNALS

Before the 2013 election 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 of the "free market". Since the election they have said nothing against the TPP. It is clear they are happy to empower these tribunals to stop any future government from making rules which might limit the profits of foreign corporations.

THE TPP IS JUST A PART OF A GLOBAL PUSH FOR 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, and similar "trade" agreements have been going for years. One example is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. NAFTA created a trilateral trade bloc in North America which came into force in 1994, almost 20 years ago. Another being negotiated now is the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA) between the US and the European Union. This is also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). "U.S. and European delegates will negotiate TAFTA secretly, mirroring the same undemocratic processes that led to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, TAFTA's objective is to address a wide range of cross-border regulatory issues under one overarching agreement."

INVESTOR-STATE TRIBUNALS ARE THE NEW METHOD OF 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.

ONLY LATIN AMERICAN COUNTRIES STAND UP TO INVESTOR-STATE TRIBUNALS
Notice that most of the opposition to these investor-state tribunals comes from the same Latin American countries that have supported Julian Assange and Ed Snowden. The leaders of these countries are not afraid to protect the interests of their own people rather than the interests of giant foreign corporations. The only way we can expect this of our leaders is to make them realize that we will not tolerate putting foreign corporations beyond the reach of our laws.

SOME EXAMPLES FROM SOUTH 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 law suits 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."

IS LITTLE AUSTRALIA IS GOING TO STAND UP AND SAY NO?
Since there is a world wide push for investor-state tribunals to protect the profits of foreign corporations, it is difficult to imagine any of the politicians in Australia will stand 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. Just as they have abandoned Julian Assange, Labor will almost certainly cave in at the last moment, when it finally comes to the Senate for a vote.

Recent Articles on the TPP:

Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Bad for Workers, and for Democracy
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-gautney/why-the-transpacific-part_1_b_6598604.html

The Trans Pacific Partnership is the most significant threat to the Australian way of life in 2015
https://medium.com/@occupySYDNEY/the-trans-pacific-partnership-is-the-most-significant-threat-to-the-australian-way-of-life-in-2015-28582a5692a8

Trade deal health concerns
https://www.mja.com.au/insight/2015/4/trade-deal-health-concerns

What doctors should know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2015/202/4/what-doctors-should-know-about-trans-pacific-partnership-agreement

Trans-Pacific Partnership Contains Provison To Help Wall Street Avoid Regulations
http://news.firedoglake.com/2015/01/28/trans-pacific-partnership-contains-provison-to-help-wall-street-avoid-regulations/


The Chinese have an Answer to the TPP:

"To counter the US attempt to economically isolate China in Asia through creation of a US Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Beijing has announced its own Chinese vision of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), an “all inclusive, all-win” trade deal that really promotes Asia-Pacific cooperation."
http://journal-neo.org/2015/01/10/china-s-global-political-shift/

Occupy Sydney Light Brigades and #StopTPPAustralia toolkit

Stop Trans Pacific Partnership entering front or back door
http://occupysydney.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/occupy-sydney-light-brigades-forming.html

Protesters Take Over TPP Fast Track Hearing!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HK_7TDVuR2I&feature=youtu.be

We Need to Stop the White House From Putting TPP and TTIP on the Fast Track To Ratification

January 13, 2015 | By Maira Sutton
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/01/we-need-stop-white-house-putting-tpp-and-ttip-fast-track-ratification

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Sink the Middle Class

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/28753-the-trans-pacific-partnership-will-sink-the-middle-class

The Mother Of All Corporate Power Grabs – The Trans-Pacific Partnership
http://importantcool.com/mother-corporate-power-grabs-trans-pacific-partnership/

World leaders and corporations want to pass the #TPP -- but will not tell us what’s inside the agreement.

http://action.sumofus.org/a/TPP-TTIP/

The Trans-Pacific Partnership won't deliver jobs or curb China's power
TPP fails on economic and political grounds
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-prestowitz-tpp-trade-pact-20150123-story.html

Trading Away Our Environmental Future: The Trans-Pacific Partnership
http://truth-out.org/news/item/28634-trading-away-our-environmental-future-the-trans-pacific-partnership

Dumping Radioactive Food from Japan on the World-Why the TPP is a Pending Disaster
https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/dumping-radioactive-food-from-japan-on-the-world-why-the-tpp-is-a-pending-disaster/

THE TPP IS A CREATURE OF THE ALP

In December 2013 Senator Penny Wong wrote an Opinion Piece entitled "TPP Must Not Trade Away Australia's National Interest". Its real purpose is to hide from Labor supporters how the party paved the way for the the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Australia. Her comments about the TPP are just as shameful as the TPP itself. There is no way the Labor Party can escape the blame for blindfolding the public about this so-called "trade" agreement. They should have walked away from it years ago, but they didn't.

SORRY, THE TPP IS NOT ABOUT TRADE
Senator Wong begins with a few motherhood statements about how Labor supports "reducing barriers to trade can boost our economic growth." As inoffensive as this may seem, it overlooks the fact that the TPP is NOT ABOUT TRADE. It is only called a trade agreement to disguise the fact that the agreement is really about destroying the sovereignty of all the nations that sign it, including the US itself. By continuing the pretence that the TPP is about trade, she fails to explain to her readers the reason some 600 multinational companies are pushing President Obama to implement the TPP as quickly and as silently as possible. If the TPP was explained to the citizens of the relevant countries, they could not understand how their leaders could consider agreeing to such a corporate takeover of their political system.

SO CHINA IS NOT IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION?
Another serious distortion is her claim that "the TPP could be an important stepping stone to closer economic engagement across the Asia-Pacific region." In fact the TPP is not about "closer economic engagement" between countries, but the subordination of all the signatories to the demands of the largest multinational corporations. Further she ignores the fact that the TPP does not include China, Australia's largest trading partner and the real powerhouse economy in Asia. We increasingly depend on trade with China. So much for closer economic engagement with Asia!

A QUESTION FOR SENATOR WONG: IS THE TPP IN AUSTRALIA'S INTEREST?
Senator Wong points to four areas where she admits that the TPP might just possibly not be in Australia's interest:

(1) If it undermined the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
(2) If it shifted “the legal balance between creators and users of protected works.
(3) If it "constrains the ability of future governments to make laws on social, environmental and economic matters where those laws treat domestic and foreign businesses equally".
(4) She also makes a vague reference to some problems identified by the Productivity Commission about the Investor State Dispute Settlement system. (This "dispute mechanism" is the centrepiece of the TPP. It is the method used to override decisions of any sovereign state. You don't need to refer to the Productivity Commission to work out what is wrong with this feature of the TPP.)

Note that Senator Wong DOES NOT ASSERT THE TPP IS NOT IN AUSTRALIA'S INTEREST. She knows it is not in Australia's interest but avoids saying so. However, if she did acknowledge this, it would raise the obvious question: Why did Labor go along with it for all those years? Still we could ask another question: If YOU have no real idea whether this is in Australia's interests or not, what are you doing RUNNING THE GOVERNMENT? Does Labor really think they can escape blame for this monster?

LABOR BELIEVES WHAT....????
Senator Wong concludes with a statement of what she claims is one of Labor's core values: "Labor believes the full text of any proposed TPP should be released well before it is signed." Oh really?? Virtually the whole of the TPP has been negotiated during the term of the previous Labor government in which she served as a minister. She KNOWS it was IMPOSSIBLE to undertake these negotiations without agreeing to COMPLETE SILENCE and highly limited disclosure. As far as I know, there are even no members of the US Congress who have seen the TPP documents. Labor believes nothing of the sort and they never did!

WHAT LABOR REALLY BELIEVES

Labor believes it is a good thing to do exactly what the US wants. Their real difference from the Liberals is that they hide this fact from their supporters. The TPP negotiations show where the loyalties of the senior members Labor and the Liberal parties can be found. They care more for the interests of the US government and the 600 multinational for which they speak than the citizens of Australia who actually pay their wages. I believe supporters of Labor who cannot stand the TPP should realize that it is just as much a result of Labor as the Liberals. Blind Freddy can see that this totally secret attack on the power of elected governments is a complete disaster. It is not in the national interest of any country, even the US itself. It is only in the interest of the 600 multinationals who worked to create it. Sorry Senator Wong, the TPP is your baby just as much as it is Tony's. We know who the parents are, and we will not forget.

Senator Wong's article can be found here: http://www.stephenjones.org.au/senator_penny_wong_tpp_must_not_trade_away_australia_s_national_interest

For more information on the TPP see:
AUSTRALIA MUST OPPOSE THE TPP AGREEMENT!
http://australianvoice.livejournal.com/1276.html