An Australian ministerial statement claiming ‘significant progress’ on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations but with no details or further meeting plans shows that the Australian government might be making shameful concessions in exchange for dubious market access deals, according to a Scoop story quoting Dr. Patricia Ranald, co-ordinator of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET).
Ranald said a recently leaked draft text showed the US still wanted longer and stronger patents on medicines, more internet controls, and special rights for foreign investors to sue governments over changes to domestic laws.
“It is significant that, although Australia hosted the negotiations, the meeting was chaired by the US trade representative, exerting maximum pressure for concessions to the US agenda,” she said.
“There is growing resistance to this agenda, and to the secrecy of the negotiations, from Australian civil society, as shown not only by our network of 60 community groups, but by recent statements from organisations like MSF, (Doctors without Borders) and the Australian Medical Association.
“US proposals will result in extension of the current twenty-year patents on medicines, meaning even more delays in the availability of cheaper generic medicines. This will lead to increased costs to government subsidies through the PBS [Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme] in Australia, and pressure for higher prices at the chemist.”
Ranald said Trade Minister Robb had been desperately trying to discredit critics of the TPP, but these voices were too strong.
“The inclusion of Investor-State Disputes (ISDS) in the TPP would mean that US companies will be able to sue Australian governments if they allege that changes to domestic laws will ‘harm’ their investment,” she said.
“John Howard [Australian prime minister, 1996-2007] did not agree to this in the Australia-US free trade agreement, which is why the Philip Morris tobacco company had to find an obscure Hong Kong investment agreement with ISDS to sue our government over our plain packaging legislation.
“ISDS in the TPP would give US companies open slather to sue Australian governments…”