Will the Coalition sell us out to the yanks?

ScreenHunter_698 Dec. 12 08.32

By Leith van Onselen

After years of secret negotiations, WikiLeaks recently shone a light on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the proposed regional trade deal between Pacific Rim countries, including Australia, which if it goes ahead could establish a US-style regional regulatory framework that meets the demands of its major export industries, including pharmaceutical and digital, but costs Australia dearly.

The draft chapter on intellectual property rights, revealed by WikiLeaks, included a “Christmas wishlist” for pharmaceutical companies, including the proposal to extend patent protection and strengthen monopolies on clinical data. As part of the deal, the US is reportedly seeking patents for “new forms” of known substances, as well as on new uses on old medicines – a proposal which would lead to “evergreening”, whereby patents can be renewed continuously.

It’s a huge risk to Australia’s world class public health system, which risks cost blowouts via reduced access to cheaper generic drugs and reduced rights for the government to regulate medicine prices. It also risks stifling innovation in the event that patent terms are extended too far.

The US is also seeking to insert an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause into the agreement, which could give authority to major corporations to challenge laws made by governments in the national interest in international courts of arbitration. So effectively, US companies would be allowed to sue the Australian Government under international law – a move that is being pursued by Philip Morris against Australia on plain packaging and graphic warnings for cigarettes.

The draft agreement also sought to place more restrictions on internet users by forcing ISPs to cooperate with copyright holders and terminating the accounts of repeat infringers. This is despite the High Court of Australia ruling that an ISPs inaction could not be taken as authorisation of a copyright infringement.

Finally, the US is opposing a proposal that would allow the circumvention of technology that restricts products to certain regions, even though this was recommended by the Australian parliament’s Inquiry into IT Pricing, as well as opposing the parallel importation of goods made under authorisation in other countries, which acts to maintain higher prices.

With these concerns in mind, it is disturbing that the Federal Minister for Trade, Andrew Robb, is considering ceding to the Americans in a bid to gain better access for Australian agriculture (areas omitted in the Australia-US FTA):

Australia is prepared to give ground on investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) powers – which allow multinational companies to sue the government – in return for “substantial market access” in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade minister, Andrew Robb, said.

Robb predicted the TPP would be a “platform for 21st-century trade rules” as negotiations were being watched closely by other countries but “ambitious market access” was fundamental to its successful completion.

Speaking at the conclusion of the latest round of talks, Robb confirmed he was negotiating on the controversial ISDS clause in return for market access for Australian exporters and that “substantial progress” had been made on the issue…

As a bare minimum, the text of the TPP (and other trade agreements) should be released for public and parliamentary scrutiny before they are signed. Otherwise, Australia risks being sold-out for short-term politically gain rather than sound long-term decisions

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Comments

  1. Soooo essentially to sign this agreement the government is literally giving away Australian sovereignty to the Americans………High Treason anyone ?

    • It’s high treason as far as I can tell. And I bloody-well hope someone takes it to the Federal Court the moment our sell-out politicians sign this cancerous piece of paper.

    • ….Yes indeed….yankees are our very best friendies in the whole wide world

      ….here we’re just relieved them of having to build their totally up-to-date trendy cars down here in our over priced over heated quarry….and we’re not going to give them everything else they want??

  2. Let’s face it. Unless we can put a pretty face on the issue, everyone will bend over and take it.

    Tony, you and your friends have the all clear. Well played and we deserve it.

  3. Australia is prepared to give ground on investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) powers – which allow multinational companies to sue the government – in return for “substantial market access” in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade minister, Andrew Robb, said.

    This makes the assumption that “substantial market access” – will actually materialise. We always seem to get screwed in these deals.

    I’ll bet too – that the yanks would hand over sovereignty via the ISDS not would many other countries – so why on earth are we?

    It comes down to the political divide again – Libs thinking that the ISDS would only apply to the kind of legislation the left might bring in – hence its another way battling the left. But surely this also means that the Grain Corp take over rejection could be challenged – another measure the Lib dries don’t agree with.

    But surely, Australian sovereignty is paramount.

    Please tell us what possible benefits are there for Australia in the proposed pharmaceutical changes?

    • “This makes the assumption that “substantial market access” – will actually materialise. We always seem to get screwed in these deals.”

      Absolutely! Whatever tiny increase in sugar sales we actually manage to eke out will be massively outweighed by additional health costs, software & entertainment costs, criminal charges for IP piracy, US & Euro companies suing the Aus Govt everytime we try to do something they don’t like, etc etc etc..

      Awesome deal for the Australian people..

  4. This looks like a complete lemon. It’s crazy that a deal like the TPP could be signed with so little public scrutiny and consultation.

    It’s a huge risk to Australia’s world class public health system…

    That’s probably a plus for the LNP.

    Andrew Robb, is considering ceding to the Americans in a bid to gain better access for Australian agriculture (areas omitted in the Australia-US FTA)

    It’s concerning a senior government minister would be naïve enough to believe the US will allow their farming sector to compete internationally. Whatever concessions are made will be taken away via a backdoor subsidy.

    • dumb_non_economist

      “It’s crazy that a deal like the TPP could be signed with so little public scrutiny and consultation.”

      Why? Because if there was any scrutiny it wouldn’t get signed.

      Negotiating a FTA with the likes of the US is like an individual employee negotiating his terms and conditions of employment with a multi-national.

  5. From the depiction in the Guardian there is no reason to have the talks as the trade off is so bad for Australia. The US appears to be a run by corporations that do not want any oversight or regulation and wish a free arm to act as they want. The terms of the talks are not good for Australia if the conditions are so adverse over the longer term.
    Why a minister of a sovereign country would engage in such talks needs explanation.

    • In 2001 Joseph Stieglitz warned about the dear consequences of globalization. Just one of them was the lost of sovereignty to the corporations. No one listened to him, it was wild party time, but now it is too late to be sorry for the lack of long term vision and national spirit. Our politicians are impotent leaders.

  6. Amazed that there is so little apparent concern at some of these issues.

    I’ll just deal with one of those issues for now.

    As someone in the tech industry who works for a company obsessed with patents (yes, my job requires that I file patents myself), I can say that the patent changes would be a disaster for consumer. As it stands tech and pharma patents are a complete shambles.

    Patents in the pharma and tech industry stopped being about innovation and protecting inventors years ago. Now, patents are more about large corporations protecting their territory and stopping competition. In the case of pharma companies, they desire to stop all competition. The “evergreening” of patents is just one example where the companies seek to violate the intention of patents for their own corporate interests at the cost to the consumer.

    • Corporations and landlords feudalism.

      This is a clear sign of dying capitalism. Let remember that if the competition, science and innovation, which are vital for capital growth, are obstructed, capitalism is dead.

      • I know what you’re saying Lori. But I see it as a clear sign of the (inevitable, as-planned) success of so-called “capital-ism”.

        Otherwise known as “Global Conquest by Usury”.

        After all, who gives rein (reign?) to those feudalist corporations and landlords?

        The usurers who finance/d them.

      • Opinion8red, I totally agree that this is “capital-ism” and that this is the aging stage of it, but the prospects for progressive human advancement in such circumstances are very grim. As we can see everywhere rent-seeking isn’t only on a global, national or local level, it is rotting the business organizations from inside. The meritocracy, which was once fundamental for our progress is dying too and this will bury capitalism itself. It is still long way ahead, but if nothing changes, this is the natural outcome – dead. It won’t be the first, neither the last civilization, which will die under its own parasitism.

      • The funny thing is that the usury industry is now funding patent accumulation companies that buy hold and defend them – even the big corporations can no longer afford the cost of maintaining these IP assets.

        In a sense, the corporations are copping their own form of feudalism. The global financial aristocrats have sold the corporations to the pension funds and are now in the process of subjugating them as well by making them pay rent on their own ideas and knowledge.

  7. Accepting ISDS clauses for some nebulous hope of access to sugar and dairy markets is a joke.
    I wonder if Joe Hockey’s “whatever we can get” comments in relation to a trade deal with China are a mandate for the acceptance of ISDS provisions in that negotiating forum.

    • Sugar is largely foreign owned already. Have our friends in Canberra ever done anything competently in this regard? We would be better off if they undid every FTA since the one with Thailand.

  8. The one thing Wikileaks showed very well was just how duplicitous our party politicians are.

    Labor was having cosy little chats with the US and feeding the voters more bullsh!t and lies – the LNP division of the party machine would be no diff – probably worse.

    • Yes selling the farms and land sadly enough.

      However Chinese lawyers are not suing our people en masse, which is what looks like will begin to happen with the TPP.

      As an American, Kodiak, can I ask you, how many lawsuits have you and your family and friends been subjected to, on either side of the table.

      What were the approximate total legal fees and damages?

      Whilst I do have a couple of lawyer friends, I think the American style litigation-happy society is one we want to avoid following.

      Let alone open the floodgates for the armies of American lawyers to swarm like leeches upon our society.

      • In a word: None. Are you off your meds or something?

        Do Aussies go full retard when talking about the US? Because they are remarkably ill-informed.

        I wish that we’d tear up ANZUS and every other bilateral agreement in which Australia has access to US IP. It might shut some of you idiots up. Maybe…

  9. Robb is so typical of our half rate leaders, desperate to play with big boys, he will do anything to get on the telly with a ceremonial pen in his hand.

    Expect Robb to serve us up for some blankets and trinkets.

    Finding ‘ways’ of blocking any real access for agricultural goods is one of the favourite past times of the US ag lobby.

    As if the President will back our farmers and their bit of paper over the voters of Iowa.

    While we are paying through the teeth for hollywood rubbish and pharmaceuticals that should have been patent expired decades ago.