Trade agreement ‘off the record’ to Australian media

November 1, 2013
Protest opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Sydney on October 30. Photo: Peter Boyle

Selected people in Australia recently received the following invitation from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: “Dear TPP Stakeholders, As part of the Australian Government’s ongoing public consultation process on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations, the TPP negotiating team will be visiting Sydney on 30 October 2013 to meet with interested members of the public, and business and civil society stakeholders.

“The meeting will provide an update on the negotiations and an opportunity for further stakeholder input.”

The TPP is supposed to be finalised by the end of the year. Yet most people have never even heard of the TPP, let alone the “public consultation” underway.

Journalists who responded to the invitation were turned away because the “stakeholders'” discussion was “off-the-record” and “not open to media”.

So why all this secrecy around the TPP?

Prominent progressive author and researcher Susan George said during a recent visit to Australia, the TPP is one of a number of powerful treaties that have been prepared over years “to free the transnational corporations from regulation and from any restrictions on investment”.

“These are treaties to give those corporations the power to sue a sovereign government if that government passes any legislation which limits their present or even future expected profits.”

In Australia, some of the potential casualties of the TPP could be:

• The reach of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which provides subsidised medicines for those who cannot afford the exorbitant prices the giant pharmaceutical companies put on their products;
• The community campaign to have governments ban fracking and restrict or stop the rollout of coal seam gas and other unconventional gas mining;
• Access to media and technology through the imposition of even more draconian copyright laws.

But the full scope of treaties like these could be revealed should the people in any of the signatory countries (Australia, the US, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam) win a government that truly serves the people's interests over that of the giant corporations.

There's good news and bad news in this story.

The good news is that the giant transnational corporations know that their insatiable self-enrichment agenda is deeply unpopular around the world. So unpopular that sustained mass uprisings in countries such as Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador have brought in governments that have begun to nationalise some of the ill-gotten assets of these corporations, deeply cutting back the “right” of these corporations to ruthlessly exploit the world and its inhabitants.

The bad news is that there is a long way to go in Australia to build a similar popular resistance to this nasty corporate agenda.

Green Left Weekly will play its part in getting the truth out about the secretive negotiations around the TPP as well as the growing popular resistance to it in the Pacific region. Our objective is to help build a movement that stops the TPP

You can help Green Left Weekly in this campaign by taking out a Solidarity Subscription or making a donation online to the fighting fund. Direct deposits can also be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or donate on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

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