Australia’s Trade Minister Andrew Robb has described concerns raised by diverse groups about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) as a “scare campaign” that is “designed to frighten people about any sort of trade agreement”, according to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) story relayed by the TMA.
The agreement is being negotiated in secret by representatives of Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.
Medical doctors have previously raised concerns about the TPPA, saying that while the Australian government has stated it would not enter into an agreement that compromised public health, independent assessment of the implications for public health was severely limited by lack of transparency in the negotiations.
In an interview with the ABC, Robb said he had not made a decision on whether to support the inclusion of an Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS mechanism in the TPPA.
The ISDS mechanism would allow a corporation to sue a government if legislation affected the company’s profitability.
“We want provisions that mean that governments can take public health policy decisions or environmental decisions and not be subject to the ISDS, now that’s pretty straightforward,” he said.
But consumer group Choice and Australian food manufacturing company Dick Smith said the inclusion of an ISDS in the TPPA could see the Australian government sued over planned changes to food labeling laws.
Meanwhile, the Australian Industry (AI) Group is concerned that once the deal is signed it cannot be amended.
The AI Group has lobbied the government to have greater access to the negotiations. Robb maintains the government has held 1,000 consultations with groups including Choice, the AI Group and unions.