Agreement “quite scary”

| March 6, 2018

Australian taxpayers are being warned they are at risk of picking up the bill if Australia is sued by multinational corporations under a new international trade agreement to be signed this week, according to a story by Anna Patty for the Sydney Morning Herald.

But for once, tobacco multinationals are in the clear.

Ministers of the original 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam concluded their negotiations in 2015; but, last year, US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the agreement, forcing the other countries to change the treaty appropriately. The revised treaty was finalized in January.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said that in signing the TPP agreement, the Australian government was choosing to give up Australia’s sovereignty by allowing the government to be sued by foreign corporations when they believed a change in Australian laws were affecting their profits.

The TPP is due to be signed in Chile on March 8.

The ACTU said that the agreement opened the way for taxpayers to pick up the bill if multinational corporations disagreed with Australia’s public policies.

Under the agreement, the government could exclude future tobacco control laws, but it could be vulnerable to being sued for other legislative changes.

An Australian government spokeswoman said Australia and New Zealand have agreed not to make the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism available to investors from their respective TPP economies. However, Australia would still be subject to ISDS actions from other TPP partners.

Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said the ACTU was “mischaracterising the TPP-11’s important outcomes for Australia’s services suppliers”.

He said ISDS provisions in the TPP protected Australian companies in economies that didn’t have the same transparency and predictability as Australia.

“The Coalition ensured the ISDS provisions include modern safeguards that ensures the government can regulate in the national interest,” he said.

But Stuart Rosewarne from the University of Sydney’s department of political economy described the ISDS provision in the TPP as “quite scary” because it effectively allowed a foreign-owned company to challenge Australian laws, including enhanced labour laws that were considered to impose additional or onerous obligations on a company’s employment practices.


Category: Breaking News

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