The federal government should encourage open and honest debate on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Author: Zoya Sheftalovich
Are you concerned about increasing cost of medicines? Would you worry if Australians could be jailed for illegally downloading an episode of Game of Thrones? Do you want to know if your muesli bar contains palm oil?
Then you really should care about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement being negotiated in secret between Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. In this report you will find information on:
- The secrecy surrounding the TPP and details of how the media is being locked out of briefings
- How the Australian government could become more vulnerable to lawsuits from multinational corporations
- Why food labelling in Australia is in danger
- How draconian copyright provisions could significantly curb our freedom online
- How new patent provisions could make medication costs skyrocket
- CHOICE’s campaign on the TPP
- CHOICE is calling for the TPP text to be released before a final agreement is signed.
CHOICE investigates the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the impact it will have on your consumer rights and privacy. Why all the secrecy?
What CHOICE wants
It is not too late to release the drafts of the TPP so that they can be debated in civil society and so the TPP can be made fairer for consumers.
The leak of the IP chapter of the TPP by WikiLeaks indicates that there are many sections of the TPP upon which the 12 parties don’t agree, so the agreement is not finalised.
CHOICE is currently campaigning against the secrecy surrounding the TPP. We have now lodged our petition, signed by over 14,000 Australians, calling on the government to release the contents of the TPP. We believe such an important and binding trade agreement must be open for public scrutiny and oversight. The signed petition has been presented to the government to send the message that Australian consumers deserve to have a say on the TPP.
And our campaign doesn’t stop there. To find out how you can get further involved with our TPP campaign, check out our #ReleaseTheText campaigners information kit.
Why haven’t you heard more about it?
The TPP has been shrouded in secrecy, with negotiations happening behind closed doors and non-disclosure agreements securing the negotiators’ silence. And while CHOICE has met with several of those involved in drafting the agreement and even attended meetings with negotiators at a round of negotiations held in Malaysia in 2013 (we were permitted to have our say, but could only guess at the contents of the agreement in order to raise our objections), we still don’t know what the final agreement will contain. Because of the secrecy, which began under the previous Labor government and has continued last year’s election of the Coalition, any public knowledge about the TPP is based on leaked drafts and statements made by those involved.
The kicker? Hundreds of “cleared advisors” – a group comprising industry lobbyists from the US – have had access to the full drafts of the TPP, while public interest groups like CHOICE have been kept in the dark.
WikiLeaks recently published a draft of the intellectual property chapter of the agreement, which they say was distributed among the chief negotiators of the TPP in late August 2013. While the final chapter will likely be different as talks are ongoing (several rounds of talks have already been held after the leaked chapter was authored), the draft includes details on the positions taken by the countries on various measures. This leaked draft indicates that consumer rights could be significantly eroded if Australia signs and ratifies the TPP.
“Australian consumers have been betrayed,” says Dr Matthew Rimmer, Associate Professor at the ANU College of Law. “The intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a monster. The proposals in respect of copyright law, trademark law, patent law, and data protection would hit Australian consumers hard.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership undermines Australian efforts to take substantive policy action in respect of IT pricing. The agreement does nothing to further efforts to reform copyright exceptions in Australia. The agreement threatens consumer rights, privacy, and internet freedom.”
DFAT to media: you’re “ineligible” to attend TPP briefings
The Australian government seems like it isn’t too keen on TPP negotiations hitting the headlines. In late October 2013, technology journalist Josh Taylor of ZDNet told CHOICE he was barred from attending a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) briefing on the TPP negotiations, despite the fact that his RSVP had previously been confirmed.
According to the invitation, the briefing was open to “members of the public, and business and civil society stakeholders”; no mention was made of journalists being excluded. But in revoking his invitation, Taylor says DFAT told him that TPP briefings are “off the record”. In a backflip, DFAT later reportedly told the journalist he could attend in a private capacity, but couldn’t record or attribute any of the briefing material.