The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is calling for the federal government to halt all negotiations on “the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal”, saying that the leaked proposals could see the price of medicines rise and foreign companies given rights to sue the Government.
The ACTU said that they support trade deals that result in more jobs and solidify the rights of workers, but pointed out that the TPP does not do that.
“TPP talks are being held in secret without unions, business, church, environmental or community groups being involved – this is great for big multinational companies but terrible for ordinary people and the role of governments,” ACTU President Ged Kearney said.
“Unions in every country negotiating the TPP are calling for negotiations to be shut down unless there are transparent, public mandates that put community interests ahead of company profits.”
The ACTU highlighted their key concerns, saying that TPP leaks have shown that some countries are aiming to dismiss workers’ rights. The TPP deal fails to cover conventions set by the United Nations International Labour Organisation (ILO), the ACTU said, highlighting concerns that corporations will be held in higher regard than individuals.
Unions say the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions could see policies and laws benefiting the Australian public and environment put at risk by companies given the ability to sue the Government for policies affecting their profits.
An ABC article published last October placed a spotlight on the law suits that could arise in such agreements, mentioning an international tribunal that forced Ecuador to pay US petroleum company Occidental approximately US$1.76 billion for cancelling their contract. A case in Germany was also cited. The country was sued €1.4 billion for attempting to enforce water quality standards for power plants powered by coal. Energy company Vattenfall was behind that one.
In an open letter to Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network Coordinator Patricia Ranald said the fact TPP negotiations around the world had been ongoing for six years “indicates that many governments are unable to agree that the TPP is in their national interest”.
“In summary, the risks and potential costs of these harmful proposals in the TPP are unacceptable,” Ms Ranald wrote.
“It is not in Australia’s national interest for these public policies to be traded away in secret negotiations. We call on the government to reject all of the harmful proposals in the TPP, and to release the full text of the agreement for public and Parliamentary scrutiny and debate before any Cabinet decision to endorse it.”