NGOs call for release of TPP trade pact text


By Leith van Onselen

Forty-eight non-government organisations (NGOs) have issued an open letter to trade ministers and heads of delegations calling for the release of the draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, in a bid to raise transparency and accountability.

Australian signatories include:

  • Australian Digital Alliance
  • Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET)
  • Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)
  • Australian Libraries Copyright Committee (ALCC)
  • Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA)
  • Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA)

As noted in the letter:

Ever since talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) began over five years ago, there have been broad public calls on leaders to make negotiations more transparent and open to the public. In statements, in letters, and in face-to-face meetings with trade representatives, we have urged the adoption of concrete practices that would better enable the kind of open debate and oversight that would help demystify these ongoing negotiations by making better, more accurate information available to the public.

The European Commission has recently taken leadership on this issue in the parallel context of negotiations over a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), recommending on 25 November 2014 that the EU’s TTIP text proposals henceforth be released to the public, and that other information related to TTIP be shared more broadly with all Members of the European Parliament, beyond the currently limited membership of the International Trade Committee.

The end of TPP negotiations now seems to be coming into focus. They have come down to high-level political decisions by negotiating countries, and the text is largely completed except for some resolutions on remaining landing zones. At this point, we know that there is a draft of the TPP that is mostly agreed upon by those negotiating the deal.

Today, we strongly urge you to release the unbracketed text and to release the negotiating positions for text that is bracketed, now and going forwards as any future proposals are made. The public has a legitimate interest in knowing what has already been decided on its behalf, and what is now at stake with our various countries’ positions on these controversial regulatory issues.

We call on you to consider the recent announcement from the European Commission as a welcome precedent to follow, thereby re-affirming your commitment to fundamental principles of transparency and public participation in rule making. The negotiations in Washington DC this week would provide the perfect opportunity for such a ground-breaking accord to be announced.

For this reason, several notable experts have voiced strong opposition to the TPP fearing that it represents grave risks for the global trading system and citizens of countries operating within it.

Of course, the 48 NGOs are not the only ones concerned about the TPP.


Earlier this year, former World Trade Organisation (WTO) director-general, Supachai Panitchpakdi, claimed the TPP represents a step backwards to the days before the WTO when the US and Europe controlled the global trading system to the detriment of other economies.

Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, raised similar fears in an open letter posted late last year, whereby he questioned negotiators’ secrecy and warned about “grave risks on all sorts of topics” posed by the TPP, as well as claiming that it contains “many of the worst features of the worst laws in the TPP countries, making needed reforms extremely difficult if not impossible”.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman, another nobel prize winning economist and trade expert, has also slammed the TPP, noting that it would increase the ability of certain corporations to assert control over intellectual property [including] drug patents and movie rights”. Krugman also claimed that “there isn’t a compelling case for this deal, from either a global or a national point of view”, and that the “economic case is weak, at best”, with “the push for T.P.P… weirdly out of touch with both economic and political reality”.


Let’s hope the countries involved in the TPP follow the European Commission’s precedent and release the draft text as soon as possible. We have been kept in the dark for too long.

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About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.