As mentioned on Monday Oct. 5 on the ABC’s morning program, the Federal Government is in the final rounds of approving Australia’s signing up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
According to Australia’s Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb, there is a 50% chance of the deal being finalized in the US today.
Sticking points for Australia are Pharmaceutical patents and access to American and Mexican markets by Australia’s sugar industry.
Nothing was mentioned, however, about the current status of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision which allows multinational corporations to sue governments over any legislation or other action which threatens their investments.
The amount of “compensation”awarded to the corporation is determined by ad hoc international tribunals, with no appeals allowed. The classic kangaroo court!
Minister Robb has previously stated he is not against a “modified version” of ISDS for Australia which contains so called “safeguards”. However such safeguards have proven insufficient in other ISDS disputes.
Take for example the case where Costa Rica was sued over its efforts to protect the breeding grounds of endangered sea turtles. U.S. interests were able to sue due to a loophole in the safeguards now being proposed for the TPP.
How many loopholes await Australia?
So, what will be the result under the TPP for The Tasmanian Government’s moratorium on genetically modified crops and animals?
Under the TPP a multinational, such as Monsanto, may be able to claim that the Tasmanian GMO moratorium threatens its investments and mount an ISDS claim against the state government.
Perhaps the US Agribusiness sector will insist that Australia must acquiesce by enacting legislation such as that recently proposed for America by US congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Kans.)
Known as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, it aims to keep American consumers unaware on whether or not their food contains GM ingredients by banning state governments and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requiring mandatory labeling for GM ingredients.
The proposed bill, which has passed the House of Representatives, even goes so far as to allow foods labeled as “natural” to contain GM ingredients.
How this plays out for Australia and Tasmania in particular remains to be seen. We only get a copy of the final agreement, with its ISDS provisions after it has been signed, sealed and delivered.
However an insightful analysis on the TPP ramifications has been written by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Adam Hersh in the Project Syndicate news site.
Stiglitz is a Nobel laureate in Economics and University Professor at Columbia University and Hersh is a Senior Economist at the Roosevelt Institute and Visiting Scholar at Columbia University’s Initiative for Policy Dialogue.
• The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade
Joseph E. Stiglitz and Adam Hersh
October 2, 2015
NEW YORK – As negotiators and ministers from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries meet in Atlanta in an effort to finalize the details of the sweeping new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), some sober analysis is warranted. The biggest regional trade and investment agreement in history is not what it seems.
You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for “free trade.” The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies.
Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.
Read the full article here:
• Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson’s website is following these developments.
Don Maisch PhD, been involved in telecommunications standard setting since the early 1990s and was a member of the Standards Australia Committee setting exposure standards for electromagnetic fields. His PhD thesis examined industry influence and bias in telecommunications health risk assessment. He has recently written a book chapter on industry influence in Australian expert science committees which is due for publication in June 2015. Besides also writing about shortcomings with planned smart grids networks in Australia (see: http://www.emfacts.com/papers/ ) he is currently working on a thesis examining draconian US tax laws that have been accepted in an IGA by the Abbott government and how they affect the financial future of expat Americans lining in Australia.
TUESDAY, October 6 ...
• SMH: The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Pacific countries agree to historic trade pact Washington, DC: After eight years of negotiations, 12 Pacific-rim nations - including Australia - have agreed upon the largest free-trade agreement in history during a last-minute round of talks in Atlanta, Georgia. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which covers 40 per cent of the global economy, will strip thousands of trade tariffs in the region and set common labour, environmental and legal standards among signatories. …
• Peter Whish-Wilson: Turnbull and Robb give rights to US corporations to sue Australia ...
Malcolm Turnbull and Andrew Robb have done what John Howard and Mark Vaile refused to do: Via the TPP they have granted US corporations to the right to sue the Australian government over making laws in the public interest.
“The United States pushed hard for the inclusion of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in the 2004 US Free Trade Agreement but then Australia refused.
Trade Minister Vaille said at the time, “If we had that mechanism in there, it would enable foreign direct investors—if they were aggrieved about a decision taken by a local government body or a state government—to seek a remedy extraterritorially. We do not believe that is necessary in an agreement between two highly developed economies with very transparent legal systems that provide the opportunity for remedy within the state where the dispute may exist…”
Senator Whish-Wilson continued, “United States corporations are the most avid user of ISDS and have brought forward at least 127 cases so far.
“The majority of ISDS cases are either won by the corporation or settled at great expense to the country being sued. Most ISDS cases from the US have involved disputes being brought by energy, mining, oil and gas companies.
“This is a watershed moment for the Liberals and the mining industry in their continuing assault against environmental protections in Australia. ISDS will provide a massive chilling effect against improvements in environmental law at a local, state and federal level.
“We won’t yet know what the wider impact the TPP will have on digital rights, copyright, health policy and financial regulation until we see the text.
“As the Productivity Commission has often said, the benefits of these deals are often oversold and the costs never discussed. I am calling on the government to come clean about what the costs to Australia will be from this deal.
“The TPP is part of a global deregulation agenda being pushed by large and mainly US corporations to inoculate them against democratic decisions made by sovereign governments.
“The TPP is not about free trade, it is about increased protections for big business in pharmaceuticals and copyright but limits governments’ ability to regulate against corporations’ impacts on the community and environment,” he concluded.
WEDNESDAY October 7 ...
• Guardian: What we do ... and don’t know The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, calls it a “gigantic foundation stone for our future prosperity”, but what does the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) mean for Australia? The short answer is that we don’t know for sure, because the full text of the deal has yet to be released. We simply have assurances from the government and various industry groups about the elements of the 12-country trade pact finalised in Atlanta in the US on Monday. Those details form the basis of this summary. … The TPP includes an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that allows companies to sue governments. The full details have yet to be released, but the Australian government says the mechanism “contains safeguards to protect legitimate government regulation in the areas of health and the environment” …
• Don Maisch in Comments: … HOWEVER what about the GMO industry. Once the dust settles from all this watch Monsanto, Syngenta or some other agri-business use the TPP’s ISDS provision to sue Tasmania to remove the GMO moratorium. It will happen. For interest see yesterday’s Truthout article …
• John Biggs in Comments: This is appalling. A neoliberal con. The winners are the corporations and losers everyone else. I am disgusted that Robb, Abbott and Turnbull haven’t refused any sort of ISDS clause as have other more sensible even neoliberal countries such as UK and Germany. Not only can any sort of environmental protection against fracking, say, sneak through under the people’s interest proviso, but mining interests and fossil fuel existing structure are now more firmly bolted on. What our politicians have done, Liberal but also Labor, is act against the people’s interests to promote the interests of foreign corporations. That is treason, no less.
• Peter Whish-Wilson: Greens call on Government to refer Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement to Productivity Commission “The public and the Parliament have a right to hear the full story about the TPP, not just the spin from the government. “The Treasury has previously said that the ‘benefits of FTAs currently under negotiation have been oversold and the negatives largely ignored.’ The Parliament and the public need to be given all the information so they can make up their own minds about the pros and cons of these deals because you can’t trust the government to tell us the whole truth.
FRIDAY, October 16 .. Mercury, leaving aside its corporate boosterist stance for a second, wakes with a start ...
• Talking Point: Worker welfare is in the fine print … There is visible anger and fear among voters in America and Britain. What about Australian voters? Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb was quoted by the ABC saying, “there are winners and losers but overwhelmingly this (TPP) will drive enormous job growth and create all sorts of wonderful opportunities.” But, for whom? Where is a copy of the final TPP agreement? Hey, Tasmania. Hey, Australia. It’s time to ask the hard questions before the deal is done. Who will be the winners? Who will be the losers? It’s time for a no-holds-barred conversation.