The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) is a secret trade deal being negotiated by the governments of 12 countries, which could have serious implications for the citizens of the nations that sign.
A public forum in Sydney on March 11 hosted a panel of speakers who analysed leaked aspects of the agreement.
Pat Ranald, from the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET), said the likely consequences of the TPP include: higher prices for medicines; restricted internet freedom; reduced Australian content in the media; threats to sustainable, healthy food; and rights for foreign investors to sue governments over health and environment laws.
AFTINET says: "The US wants special rights for foreign investors to sue governments for millions of dollars if their investments are 'harmed' by a law or policy, even if that law or policy aims to protect public health or the environment. The proposal is known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS.
"These disputes are heard by international investment tribunals, which prioritise investor rights above the public interest. Attempts to exclude public health and environmental legislation from ISDS clauses in other agreements have not been effective."
Workers' and union rights, and health and safety regulations, could also be under threat by the TPP.
Ranald said strong local and international resistance to the TPP has so far delayed its signing. She said the next major talks on TPP will probably take place this May.
Isabel McIntosh, from the Lock the Gate Alliance, spoke about the growing campaign in Australia to protect land, water and air from coal and coal seam gas (CSG) mining. The TPP could endanger any laws limiting the spread of CSG exploration, she said.
Michael Whaites from the NSW Nurses and Widwives Association said the TPP "places our universal healthcare system at considerable risk. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is under direct threat from the TPP."
Simon Frew, from the Pirate Party, said the TPP could put internet freedom in danger.
Its Intellectual Property section could allow corporations to control the internet and limit access to material, as well as permit companies to extend patents well beyond current norms.