The Liberal Member for the Federal seat of Leichardt, FNQ, Warren Entsch has released the official explanation of the TPP:
|On behalf of theHon Warren Entsch MP
Office of the Hon. Warren Entsch MP
Federal Member for Leichhardt
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Thank you for your email regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement negotiations. Mr Entsch has asked that I respond on his behalf. We have had a number of our constituents contact us regarding the TPP and so contacted the Minister’s office responsible for this matter, because it is quite a complex issue and the following response hopefully will allay your fears. Before actually becoming law it will be openly discussed in Parliament and have to pass through both the Lower and Upper Houses.
As a region-wide free trade agreement, the TPP offers an opportunity to strengthen job-creating trade and investment, and further integrate Australia into the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region by pursuing common and liberalising policy outcomes.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement will be unprecedented in its scale and level of ambition. The twelve countries that have negotiated the TPP – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam represent almost 40 per cent of the global economy – or around US$28 trillion.
Benefits of the TPP will be broad-ranging;
- for Australian businesses – by creating more export opportunities in the Asia Pacific;
- for Australian consumers – by lowering the costs and increasing the variety of goods available in Australia; and
- for the Australian economy – by promoting economic growth in the Asia Pacific, further integrating Australia into the region, and creating a common platform for expanding trade into the 21st Century.
Once concluded the TPP will be the largest trade agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organization, and represents the most significant restatement and enhancement of trade policy rules since the mid-1990s. Once finalised, TPP membership will be open to other economies in the Asia Pacific to promote prosperity and strategic stability.
Because we have received a number of constituent concerns regarding the TPP and its effects and we have therefore compiled a number of answers to cover all situations as follows:
Restricting the Government’s ability to regulate
The Australian Government is not intending to sign up to international agreements that would restrict Australia’s capacity to govern in our own interest – whether in the area of healthcare, the environment or any other regulated area of the economy.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provides an opportunity for Australian investors to protect their investments overseas against expropriation and to ensure that they are afforded a certain minimum standard of treatment, and treated in a non-discriminatory manner.
ISDS provisions have been included in agreements over the past three decades to provide protection for those who choose to pursue new opportunities for Australia by investing abroad. Australia has ISDS provisions in place with 28 economies.
The Government is considering the inclusion of ISDS provisions in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) under negotiation on a case-by-case basis. In the TPP negotiations, the Government will agree to ISDS if certain conditions are met by other TPP countries.
Contrary to some public commentary, ISDS does not protect an investor from a mere loss of profits and does not prevent a Government from changing its policies or regulating in the public interest. A loss of profits, by itself, does not amount to a breach of an FTA.
Should the Government agree to the inclusion of ISDS provisions in any of the FTAs under negotiation, we will seek to ensure that the Government is not restricted in its ability to protect public health and the environment. Further information can be found at www.dfat.gov.au/fta/isds-faq.html.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is an integral part of Australia’s health system and the Government will not agree to an outcome in the TPP negotiations which would adversely affect the PBS or Australia’s health system more generally.
Australia’s position on Intellectual Property
The Government considers that the TPP negotiations provide an important opportunity to establish effective and balanced protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) across the region, in the interests of Australian importers, exporters and consumers. The Government is seeking an outcome on IP in the TPP negotiations that is consistent with Australia’s existing laws, improves transparency and which will streamline the processes for protecting and enforcing IP rights in the region.
Australia has an effective and balanced intellectual property regime, and the Government does not intend to alter the current system through the TPP.
Copyright and the digital environment
I would like to assure you that the Government fully understands the importance of maintaining policy flexibilities, especially for the digital environment. Australia is supporting effective and balanced commitments on copyright in the TPP negotiations that retain the policy flexibilities we currently have. This is particularly important to enable the Government to consider domestic developments, such as the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report following its inquiry into copyright and the digital economy.
Access to medicines
Also issues regarding intellectual property provisions of the TPP and access to medicines. The Government understands the need for access to affordable medicines, both in Australia and in other countries. The Government is working to negotiate a TPP that is in Australia’s national interests, and that supports each Party’s right to protect public health and promote access to medicines. In particular, Australia’s TPP negotiating position takes into consideration input and advice on the potential impact of TPP proposals on Australia’s overseas aid program and developing TPP countries.
At the same time, the Government recognises the role of intellectual property in providing incentives and rewards for investment in pharmaceutical research and development. Ultimately, any outcome on pharmaceutical intellectual property issues in the TPP negotiations must strike an appropriate balance for Australia in promoting investment in innovation, and supporting timely and affordable access to medicines.
Australia is carefully analysing the inclusion of tobacco control language in the TPP negotiations. Under existing international trade obligations, Australia has the right to implement tobacco control measures, such as plain packaging for tobacco products, in the interests of public health. Australia will consider any proposal in the TPP negotiations that confirms this right.
Nothing being discussed in the TPP negotiations will weaken Australia’s policies or regulations on food or alcohol labeling. Australia’s ability to regulate food labeling will not be diminished. All Parties will retain their current rights under the World Trade Organization to make policy related to human health, safety and the environment.
State Owned Enterprises
The Government supports disciplines on State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in the TPP negotiations that will ensure that entities compete in their commercial activities on an equal footing with the private sector and do not benefit from advantages provided by government. Australia will continue to pursue disciplines that would maintain the Government’s right to use SOEs that serve a public purpose.
Concerns about labour issues under discussion in the TPP. We expect the TPP Labour Chapter will set a new benchmark that will benefit workers across the region by promoting compliance with internationally-recognised labour rights and the effective enforcement of labour laws. While dispute settlement for the Labour Chapter remains subject to negotiations, we expect that the final outcome will include an effective enforcement mechanism.
The TPP Environment Chapter will promote high levels of environmental protection in the TPP region. Australia is seeking to negotiate environmental commitments on issues where trade rules can help to address environmental challenges, including through liberalising trade in environmental goods and services and disciplines on fish subsidies that contribute to over-fishing. We are also working with other parties on trade-related ways to support objectives on conservation, biodiversity and other pressing environmental issues.
Leaked Negotiating Text
The Government is aware that documents purporting to be a leaked version of the TPP have been made public. As is normal practice in trade negotiations, the parties have agreed to keep negotiating documents, including text, confidential, though allowing for governmental consultation processes with stakeholders. The Government will not speculate on the accuracy or otherwise of so-called ‘leaked text’. Negotiating text is a dynamic document, changing regularly, and has no status until all parties have agreed to it.
Consumer protection and best practice regulation is an important aspect of the TPP negotiations. Australia does not intend, through the TPP negotiations or any other trade negotiations, to diminish the level of consumer protection available in Australia. DFAT works closely with key agencies and consults with groups such as CHOICE in developing Australia’s approach to these issues.
The Government is aware that Australians consumers are concerned about the price they pay for items purchased via the internet. As part of TPP negotiations, Australia has raised the profile of ‘geoblocking’ as a commercial practice which has an impact on how consumers engage in electronic commerce.
Transparency in TPP negotiations
Contrary to some reported claims, the TPP negotiations are not secret. The Australian Government made a public announcement about involvement in the TPP negotiations in late 2008 and has been carrying out domestic stakeholder consultations since that time.
As is standard practice with the negotiation of international treaties, draft TPP negotiating texts are not public documents. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is however taking every opportunity to ensure that stakeholders are adequately consulted and able to express their views. There will be an opportunity for full public and Parliamentary discussion prior to any agreement being ratified. In accordance with the Government’s treaty-making process, once the TPP text is agreed it will be tabled in Parliament for 20 joint sitting days to facilitate public consultations and scrutiny by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) before any binding treaty action is taken. Once tabled, the treaty text and an accompanying National Interest Analysis will be published on the JSCOT website and in the online Australian Treaties Library. Further information about the TPP can be found on the Department’s website, at: www.dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/tpp/.
Consultation – for stakeholder groups
The Australian Government commenced public domestic stakeholder consultations in late 2008 and they are ongoing. Australia’s negotiating positions have been, and continue to be, guided by consultations with a range of stakeholders. The Government will continue to take every available opportunity to consult with stakeholders and is always open to receiving written submissions and meeting with interested parties. I would encourage you to continue to participate in this consultative process.
I trust that this information is of assistance.
Here is a recent article you may wish to read.
“Farmers predict Australian agricultural exports could double by 2030 if the Trans- Pacific Partnership trade agreement is clinched as the Coalition and Labor continue to back negotiations despite escalating attacks from the Greens and anti-trade activists”
Sydney Morning Herald
Australians could pay more for drugs and medicines, movies, computer games and software, and be placed under surveillance as part of a US-led crackdown on internet piracy, according to details of secret trade negotiations exposed by WikiLeaks.
A leaked draft of a controversial chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement reveals the negotiating positions of 12 countries including Australia on copyright, patents and other intellectual property issues, with a heavy focus on enforcement measures against internet piracy.
Intellectual property experts are critical of the draft treaty, which they say would help the multinational movie and music industries, software companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers to maintain and increase prices by reinforcing the rights of copyright and patent owners, clamping down on online piracy, and raising obstacles to the introduction of generic drugs and medicines.
The leaked treaty text also reveals new US and Japanese proposals designed to enhance the ability of pharmaceutical manufacturers to extend and widen their patents on drugs and medicines.
Proposals with the potential to impact significantly on Australia’s Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme include a requirement that patents be available for new uses of existing drugs, effectively allowing ”evergreening” of existing patents; compensation to companies for delays in the grant or extension of patents; and measures to ensure data exclusivity to allow companies to prevent competitors, specifically manufacturers of generic medicines, from using past clinical safety and efficacy data to support approval of new products.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated he is keen to see the trade talks pushed to a successful conclusion next month, saying that ”there’s always horse-trading in these negotiations, but in the end … everyone is better off”.
Intellectual property law expert Matthew Rimmer said the draft was ”very prescriptive” and strongly reflected US trade objectives and multinational corporate interests ”with little focus on the rights and interests of consumers, let alone broader community interests”. ”One could see the TPP as a Christmas wish list for major corporations; and the copyright parts of the text support such a view,” Dr Rimmer said. ”Hollywood, the music industry, big IT companies such as Microsoft, the pharmaceutical sector would all be very happy with this.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recently excluded journalists from TPP industry briefings held in anticipation of the next round of negotiations that begins in Salt Lake City, Utah, next week.
Dr Rimmer noted Australia appeared ”generally supportive” of the US or otherwise ”quite passive” in the negotiations. The leaked draft shows the US and Japan oppose wording, supported by most other countries, that highlights the importance of ”maintain[ing] a balance between the rights of intellectual property holders and the legitimate interests of users and the community”.
In April, former US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich accused Australian consumers of habitually stealing copyrighted content and being ”some of the worst offenders with amongst the highest piracy rates … in the world”. Attorney-General George Brandis has signalled an intention to introduce more stringent copyright laws to crack down on online piracy.
Australia is recorded as having indicated opposition to the proposals in the draft treaty, but the strength of this is unclear as neither the former Labor government nor the new Coalition government has publicly challenged the US position. The draft text also shows that Australian negotiators have not sought any specific exemption to protect Australia’s tobacco plain packaging laws from the treaty’s strong protection for the rights of trademark owners.
Australian Greens spokesman on communications and the digital economy Scott Ludlam said the treaty was ”hugely dangerous” and people should be ”deeply concerned about what is being negotiated”.
On Wednesday, the Greens moved a Senate motion calling on Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb to table the current draft text of the TPP agreement in the Senate. A spokesman for Mr Robb said that the treaty negotiations would remain confidential, but that there had been ”a lot of consultation across all industry sectors that could be impacted by the agreement”.
WikiLeaks has condemned the TPP negotiations as a ”corporatist trade deal”. Pledges exceeding $US73,000 ($78,500) of donations to WikiLeaks have been crowdsourced to support publication of the TPP negotiating text.
The full transcript of the leaked negotiating text can by found at http://www.wikileaks.org.
Secret TPP Negotiations Resume in Salt Lake City
(Electronic Frontier Foundation)
Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (Wikileaks)
The Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty is the complete opposite of ‘free trade’