Press Release – Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network

The 12th round of Trans-Pacific partnership (TPP) negotiations begins in Dallas, Texas today between Australia, the US, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, amid criticism by fair trade groups and prominent lawyers.9 May 2012

Fair trade groups condemn reduced community access in US Trans-Pacific trade negotiations, as lawyers reject the right of investors to sue governments

The 12th round of Trans-Pacific partnership (TPP) negotiations begins in Dallas, Texas today between Australia, the US, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, amid criticism by fair trade groups and prominent lawyers.

“The negotiations have slowed, as many governments resist US proposals to give pharmaceutical companies more rights to charge higher prices for medicines, and there is growing resistance to US proposals for the right of investors to sue governments for damages over health and environment legislation,” said Dr Patricia Ranald, convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network. “These proposals have been condemned by Australian public health and other community organisations.” See www.mja.com.au/journal/2012/196/5/challenges-australia-s-national-health-policy-trade-and-investment-agreements

“But instead of listening to the legitimate concerns of other governments and community organisations, the US is reducing community access and exerting pressure to finish negotiations as secretly and as quickly as possible before the US elections,” said Dr Ranald.

“In Dallas, there will be no opportunities for community organisations to present papers to negotiators, as have occurred in previous negotiations. Instead, community groups will have ‘information tables” for half a day, in the hope that negotiators will approach them. Many ‘informal’ negotiations are also being held, at which there is no community access at all.”

“We call on governments to release the text of the negotiating documents, as has been done in World Trade Organisation negotiations, and for the whole text of the agreement to be released and debated publicly by Parliament before it is signed by Cabinet.”

“More than 100 lawyers from Australia and other countries currently or potentially engaged in the negotiations, have released an open letter calling for the right of investors to sue governments to be completely excluded from the TPP,” added Dr Ranald. The letter is available at http://tpplegal.wordpress.com/open-letter/

“To date, only the Australian Government, to its credit, has clearly opposed this provision, prompted in part by its current experience of being sued by the Philip Morris tobacco company over its tobacco plain packaging legislation, using an obscure Hong Kong – Australia 1993 investment treaty,” explained Dr Ranald.

“The open letter is signed by senior retired judges, legal academics and practitioners. It expresses concern that that foreign investors are being granted greater rights than are provided to domestic firms, and have used those rights to sue government to undermine domestic legislation and legal systems. It calls on all governments to oppose this provision. The letter will be delivered to negotiators at the start of the round of TPP negotiations today.”

ENDS

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