Leaked TPP draft has protections for some Australian institutions

Responses to an open letter reveal Australia's major political parties lack concern for transparency and accountability, Transparency Internaitonal says. Source: AAP

A leaked TPP draft chapter reveals Australia has pushed to exclude certain medical institutions from provisions that allow corporations to sue governments.

Australia may agree to ISDS provisions in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreements, subject to certain conditions, a leaked TPP draft investment chapter says.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions allow corporations to sue governments for damages in relation to changes in legislation.

The leaked investment chapter from January details the negotiations between Australia, the US and 10 other nations involved, which represents more than a third of the world’s economy.

Australia has said four institutions - Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Medicare Benefits Scheme, Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator – must not be subject to ISDS procedures.

The Australian Free Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) is concerned about the latest leaked draft.

AFTINET coordinator, Dr Patricia Ranald, questioned why Australia needed to have specific exclusions for the mentioned health institutions, and not others.

“If specific exemptions from ISDS are needed for them, what other Australian institutions could be exposed to ISDS,” Dr Ranald said.

“What about the proposed legislation for food labelling in the wake of the contaminated berries scandal?”

SBS has contacted the Australian government about AFTINET's concerns for other institutions.

In response, a spokesperson for the Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, said the draft text was not the final document.

"The only document that will accurately reflect the negotiations will be the final document," the spokesperson said.

Australia is the only country to indicate it might not be subject to the jurisdiction of ISDS agreements in the TPP.

Mr Robb has repeatedly said Australia would not sign up to an agreement that would harm Australia’s ability to maintain the health of Australians.

"The Minister... has repeatedly said the government will not support outcomes that undermine our ability to regulate or legislate in the public interest in areas such as health," the minister's spokesperson said today.

Dr Ranald said Australia was using the ISDS agreements as a “bargaining chip” to access US agricultural markets.

The National Farmers Federation has told SBS previously that access to more overseas markets would be good for the nation’s primary producers.

"The result is less barriers and improved opportunities to get Australian products in the hands of foreign consumers so that will have a beneficial impact for Australian farmers,” Tony Mahar, deputy chief executive of NFF said.

The Export Council of Australia last month told SBS ISDS agreements could help Australian corporations in their dealings overseas.

However, health and medicine groups warned the deals could lead to more expensive medicines.

A US Tobacco company has used an ISDS agreement to challenge Australia over plain packaging laws.

Governments involved in the TPP have not released details about the negotiations, and groups the government has consulted with about the negotiations have raised concern about transparency.

The government said it had conducted more than 1000 briefings with interested stakeholders.

SBS contacted several of those groups, and many said the Wikileaks draft texts were more informative than the consultations with government

A similar agreement between the US and the European Union has texts published online.


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