Just a few days ago, it looked as if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal linking 12 Pacific Rim nations, including Australia, looked dead in the water after the US Democrats voted against a bill to provide assistance to US workers adversely affected by trade agreements, which was linked to granting so-called “fast track authority” to the President, and upcoming US Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton, came out against the deal.
All that has changed now, with the US House overnight passing the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill granting President Obama fast track authority to conclude TPP negotiations. From RT.com:
[TPA] was passed around noon today with a vote of 218-208.
The sister legislation to the TPA, the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), would provide assistance to workers who lose jobs as a consequence of the trade deals and foreign competition. It was easily defeated in the House last week. Initially lawmakers were set to vote once again on the TAA this week, but on Thursday they agreed to vote again on standalone TPA…
The vote was split along partisan lines, with Republicans overwhelmingly voting in favor at 190-50, and Democrats being strongly against with a 28-158.
The passing of fast track authority is unambiguously bad news for Australians as it now means negotiations for the TPP will likely come to a close.
As I have been warning for nearly two years, the leaked drafts of the TPP have revealed that patents and copyright terms would be extended under the agreement, in addition to other provisions delaying the introduction of generic drugs onto the market. This means Australians would pay higher prices for both pharmaceutical and digital content.
The draft TPP documents also include a provision called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which would allow foreign companies to potentially sue Australian taxpayers if the Government implemented laws that affected their profits. Tobacco giant, Philip Morris, is currently suing the Australian Government for its implementation of plain packaging cigarettes under an obscure agreement signed with Hong Kong in the early 1990s, and we could expect more of these frivolous law suits under the TPP.
Finally, it was revealed last week that US President, Barack Obama, is refusing to slash agricultural tariffs and import quotas as part of the TPP, thus excluding Australian sugar and beef farmers from realising benefits.
Therefore, if the Coalition signs the TPP, it would likely grant the US further intellectual property and copyright protections for its pharmaceutical, technology and television/film entertainment sectors, without reciprocal arrangements for Australian farmers.
This is why the TPP is shaping up as an unambiguously bad deal for Australia, and the Government should refuse to sign the agreement unless the above concerns are addressed in full.