Leaked documents indicate a new multilateral trade deal currently being negotiated by Australia and other Pacific rim nations risks allowing Australian citizens to lose some of their rights. Matthew Mitchell and William Davis report.
It is becoming clear that Free Trade Agreements are being used as a vehicle to allow multi-national corporations to take power from sovereign states. And newly leaked documents indicate that Australia is at imminent risk of participating in a process that signs away the democratic rights of citizens in countries across the Pacific as part of the highly secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
Take, for example, the case brought under the CAFTA agreement against the Republic of El Salvadore by a multinational organisation on 1 June 2012. This case is to be heard by a tribunal of World Bank and has arisen because El Salvadore banned the multi-national from using environmentally damaging gold mining practices. If successful, this case will override El Salvadore’s sovereign rights to protect its own environment, and by implication its own citizens’ health.
In relation to the TPP, according to Wallach and Tucker:
“The leaked text reveals a two-track legal system, with foreign firms empowered to skirt domestic courts and laws to directly sue TPP governments in foreign tribunals. There they can demand compensation for domestic financial, health, environmental, land use laws and other laws they claim undermine their new TPP privileges.”
While the leaked text indicates that Australia has not yet agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of these tribunals, the highly secret negotiations are continuing with no public oversight (Wallach and Tucker 2012). In fact, the lack of oversight has lead US Congressman Darrel Issa to publicly accuse the Obama administration of pursuing “a secretive, closed-door negotiating process for the Trans Pacific Partnership”. Congressman Issa supported the Technical community as a strong opponent of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and has now leaked the entire Intellectual Property chapter of the Transpacific Partnership on his web-site (Carter 2012b). Issa said. "I have decided to publish the intellectual property rights chapter of TPP in Madison so that the public can provide input to those negotiating this agreement, and to push this Administration - and the federal government as a whole - to be open, transparent and inclusive when it comes to international intellectual property rights agreements that have potentially serious consequences for the Internet community."
Ian Fletcher, author of 'Free Trade Doesn't Work: What Should Replace It and Why', states:
“The TPP probably would not have survived serious scrutiny by the press, the public, or even the larger community of policymakers. That's why Kirk was on TV last month explaining that all the secrecy was necessary because public disclosure purportedly killed another major regional trade pact, the Free Trade Area of the Americas.”
The TPP is currently being negotiated by the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, but is intended to later include all the Pacific Rim nations, including China.
Given the significance of this agreement, the silence of the mainstream Australian media is conspicuous. One exception is Chris Zappone who had an article published on this issue in Australia by The Age Online earlier this year.
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