So our corporations can bully for profit.
By Glenn Murray
An Australian company is bullying El Salvador
Australian-owned Pacific Rim Mining is currently suing El Salvador for saying no to an open pit, cyanide-leach gold mine in the middle of one of its most pristine forests.
The law-suit started in 2009, before Australia’s OceanaGold bought Pacific Rim from its original Canadian owners. But when OceanaGold took the reins in December 2013, it decided to continue the action.
Bear in mind that El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Latin America, with a GDP of 23.79 billion USD. (By comparison, Australia’s GDP is 1.521 trillion USD.) So you can see why I call it ‘bullying’.
What’s this got to do with the TPP?
Australia is, right now, negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). If we ratify it, more big Australian corporations will be able to bully other countries for profit. Here’s how…
You see, in the case discussed above, Pacific Rim is suing El Salvador under the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). This is a series of agreements that Canada and El Salvador are both party to. These agreements have investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses that allow corporations to sue a country if it slows their expected profits.
The TPP is a lot like CAFTA. It includes ISDS clauses too. So if we sign up to the TPP, Australian corporations will be able to sue other countries (outside of the legal systems of those countries).
As a proud Australian, you might think that sounds OK. It gives us the advantage, right? Wrong. The flip-side is that the TPP will also give American corporations the power to sue us (and to side-step our High Court). And Japanese companies and Canadian companies will be able to sue us too. As will companies from Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Mexico and Brunei Darussalam – the other countries involved in the TPP.
Abbott serves the corporations, not us
So, while our corporations are raking in the dollars by screwing over other countries, Australian tax-payers will be paying the price. We’ll be the ones footing the bill when dozens of foreign corporations decide to sue us! (Alternatively, we’ll be the ones paying the price when the Australian government bends over to avoid being sued. When it takes warnings off food labels, fails to conduct environmental or health studies, allows patents that drive up the price of life-saving medicines, and so on…)
Oh, and incidentally, the government is already getting ready to bend over. It’s trying to push through new laws that will allow our Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, to legally ignore expert environmental advice. Coincidence? You decide…
Now… do you still think Abbott is looking out for you? Or the corporations?
Stop the TPP