TPP a “debacle” that “strengthens protection”

By Leith van Onselen

There seems to be the beginnings of a rear-guard uprising against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement – the US-led trade pact between 12 Pacific Rim nations (including Australia) – with a number of groups rallying against the deal.

ABC’s business editor, Ian Verrender, has written a damning assessment of the pact, arguing that the TPP will bolster protections under the guise of “free trade”, leading to worse outcomes for Australians:

In most cases, they [FTAs] have very little to do with trade at all, and in almost all cases, nothing at all to do with free trade.

For the most part, they are political documents. They offer politicians a stage, a platform upon which to demonstrate that they are “getting on with the job”; they keep bureaucrats busy; and they offer everyone involved the opportunity to speak in acronyms.

When it comes to economic benefits, however, they can be downright harmful.

And just like the Australia US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA to the cognoscenti) signed a little over a decade ago, the Trans Pacific Partnership has the potential to seriously compromise Australian sovereignty while delivering almost nothing in economic terms…

Back in 2004, then health minister Tony Abbott… [signed] that historic free trade deal with America.

It was a trade deal that fundamentally altered Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, limited the Commonwealth’s power to price medicines cheaply, and contributed to the soaring costs of our health system…

The TPP is being driven by America. Like most of these deals, it is politically driven. Fearful of China’s rise, America wants to corral its allies under a trade umbrella. In the process, it also wants to further the interests of American corporations and American workers.

Specifically, it wants copyright laws and patents tightened and extended…

The problem is, protection is the antithesis of free trade…

Verrender is joined today by The Age’s Kenneth Davidson, who has raised similar concerns about the TPP:

[The TPP] is in fact a push for US regional dominance with particular relevance to its rivalry with China.

…modelling of the three [recent] FTAs over the next 20 years by the Centre for International Economics… showed that the combined agreements would increase GDP by $24.5 billion – or a risible 0.1 per cent a year…

The same consultancy undertook a study of the AUSFTA in 2005. It initially forecast a gain of $4 billion accruing to Australia from liberalisation of the US sugar market. That figure was later increased to $5.6 billion, even though it became clear the sugar market would not be opened up to Australia…

The revised forecast was achieved by a reduction in the estimated “equity risk premium”. Leading trade economist Ross Garnaut said the revised result did not pass the “laugh test”…

Last week the Productivity Commission released a savage critique of the TPP and the so-called FTAs. It appears to be a last-ditch attempt by the commission to get the government to avoid putting Australia’s collective head into an even bigger noose via the TPP…

So what’s in the TPP for Australia?…

Even the Liberal Party’s junior bedfellow’s, the National Party, are having deep reservations about the TPP, threatening to revolt if sugar is excluded from liberalisation:

Nationals representing east coast Queensland seats containing the bulk of the nation’s sugar production are drawing a line in the sand on the issue, arguing Australia needs to get tough on sugar market access. The moves comes after the sugar industry failed to win significant access to the giant Chinese market in the China-­Australia free-trade agreement.

Sugar growers also expressed disappointment at the level of ­improvement in access to the Japanese market under the Australia-Japan FTA. Sugar was not included in the US-Australia FTA in 2004.

Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan told The Australian: “If there is no sugar on the table, I don’t think we should do the deal’’…

Nationals MP for Hinkler Keith Pitt said the disappointment from the 2004 US FTA was ­“terrible’’. “It’s certainly not something I’d like to be repeated…

Nationals MP for Flynn Ken O’Dowd said… “I can’t support a TPP without sugar. It is important and we can’t neglect it’’…

US President, Barrack Obama, has already stated that the US won’t slash agricultural tariffs and import quotas as part of the TPP, thus excluding Australian sugar and beef farmers from realising benefits, just as it did under the AUSFTA.

Let’s hope the Nationals, the Greens and Labor unite to block the passage of the TPP into law after it is signed by trade minister, Andrew Robb.

The TPP is an unmitigated dud, strengthening patent and copyright protections at the expense of Australian consumers/taxpayers, introducing risky investor-state dispute settlement provisions that could permit foreign firms to sue Australian taxpayers if/when the Government legislates in the national interest, all the while doing little to free-up agricultural protections for Australian farmers.

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Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

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  1. Its a cynical view, but I am forming the opinion the political class exists to sell out the public in order to extract whatever tribute it can for itself.

  2. Anyone else see the report this morning that under the new FTA signed with china, Chinese electricians coming here to work under 457 visa do not need to have their skills/qualifications checked to verify their competency. I mean just wonderful. Thank you liberal govt. Its all good. Lets ignore for the moment you allowing more 457 here in the midst of a slowing economy. Its all good that we rely on some paperwork to say this person is a qualified skilled electrician who can work to local safety standards. No doubt they will be accredited by the same Chinese body that produces the forged standards certificates that have resulted in NSW high rise apartments being turned into flaming death traps with fire proof cladding that isnt actually fireproof. I mean WTF is going on here. This is so stupid.

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      I still remember about the newspaper article about uncertified Chinese electricians sticking wires into the power socket because they don’t have the right power adapter for their power tools. With certification, nothing will stop these kind of actions!! If people die, that is just ‘free market’ in action, I imagine Joe Hockey will say “they should have bought better houses”..

      • And when people are killed and there are calls for a royal commission, libs will howl to the moon that its a unjustified political witch hunt. Pink batts anyone ?

      • Utterly disgraceful. Just disgraceful. There is not enough words to express how disgraceful it is.

      • What I find odd, is the guys approving this seem to feel they and their loved ones are immune from any potential side effects. It’s like they don’t use buildings that have electricity in them, or share roads with a semi that had it’s brakes “repaired” by someone on a 457 visa…

  3. Robb will do any deal for corporate – American ones too – and ignores sovereignty. This is a debate between business lobbyists who want it and disinterested analysts and journalists who all see a deal of zero benefit. It is a political failure where interests are so diametrically opposed. Now it is with the Nationals and Greens and Labor to stop this deal and ultimately Robb must be sacked.

    • Crocodile Chuck

      String him up. & rescind his AUS citizenship:

      Also found in: Legal, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
      treach·er·y (trĕch′ə-rē)
      n. pl. treach·er·ies
      1. Willful betrayal of fidelity, confidence, or trust; perfidy.
      2. The act or an instance of such betrayal.

  4. Jonny G Banger

    “Let’s hope the Nationals, the Greens and Labor unite to block the passage of the TPP into law after it is signed by trade minister, Andrew Robb.”
    Will this action actually have any effect or is the case that once Robb signs it we are fucked because clearly Robb is going to sign it.
    Are there any options to stop it from becoming implemented once Robb signs?

    • Im afraid not. Abbot has shorten running so scared they will pass anything abbot puts in front of them now. Just like the recent Censorship , sorry, “copyright” legislation.

      • Shorten is a disgrace to the Labor party! Zero voice, zero presence, just a ZERO in every sense of the word. Nothing but a power hungry vacuous empty suit!

    • “Will this action actually have any effect or is the case that once Robb signs it we are fucked because clearly Robb is going to sign it.”

      A treaty doesn’t take effect until after enabling legislation has been passed by the House of Reps and Senate.

      So yes, there is a way to stop it no matter what Robb does. But no, pathetic Labor won’t vote against it. Shorten has already told the party room that “we’re a free trade party”.

  5. “disinterested analysts and journalists ”

    Journalism is dead! Just 6 corporations effectively control all US media, and one of those controls most of ours. It is hopeless for now, we are way too apathetic. People are too distracted by non issues like Bruce Jenner’s becoming a woman to focus on anything that actually matters.

  6. David E.H. Smith

    ECONOMIC LAW; There is only a Finite Amount of Global Value; it does Not Grow, or, Shrink. TPP & Global Treaties/’Arrangements’ just Funnel it to Global Corporate Signatories & Shareholders.

    YOUR Accelerating ‘AUSTERITY’ is Absolutely NECESSARY in order to Pay Corporate Leaders/Assocs. & Shareholders Their PENALTIES of Treaties’/Arrangements’ Tribunals.
    Come ON!
    Just ‘PATRIOTICALLY’ (Supplicantly) SUPPORT YOUR NATIONAL ‘RULING CLASS’ & their Assocs.

    How long before Japan & other TPP Signatories hear,
    ‘Well, you should have known…’; Pres. G.H. Bush said re; Corporate America ‘Arranged’ Reneging on NAFTA ‘dispute resolution’? Unethically More Profitable for Globalized ‘U.S.’ Corporations to Pay Lobbyists & Not Pay Taxes
    than to Pay Patriotic, Taxpaying American Workers & Accounting/BANKING SERVICE Industries.

    Scrutinizing TPP & Global Treaties/’Arrangements see; the ACLU/NAACP re;
    ‘The Submission’:
    ‘The SHAREHOLDERS & Corporations of AMERICA, Australia, Canada, the nations of the Trans Pacific, the EU, et al
    the harmless Canadian NON shareholders, both; Native & non Native, et al’
    ‘The MERKEL (Chancellor of Germany) Letter; To Sue, or, Be Sued?’

    Secrecy 4 – 5 years after Ratification for Wall St. to Muddy the Insider Trading & ‘IPO’ Trails; the lil’ Trader, Pension Funds, Public, et al, Don’t Stand a Chance.

    Fast Tracking TPP & Global Treaties.
    part of corp. US’s attempt to Increase & ‘Share’ $17+ Trillion Debt ‘Earning$’ & to Legitimize Hidden Earning$ in Untouchable Foreign Banks.
    Time to REPATRIATE ‘Earnings’; NO FOREIGN Accountants, Banks, Services, etc.
    NO Trickle Down from Hiding ‘Earnings’ in Secret Off-Shore Accounts.

    Priority Taxpayer Payouts to TPP Secret Tribunals & Military Industrial Complex Leaves Much Less for Health Care, Investigating/REGULATING Global Corporate Abuses & Gov’t. Programs.
    As the ‘U.S.’ has No Intention of Paying ‘it’s’ +17 trillion Debt, or, ’it’s’ Treaty Expandable Debt, why not just Cut the Taxes of the lil’ Guy in Half?

    Congress Just Needed a lil’ ‘Bun Buttering’ with Taxpayer$ & ‘Considerations’ from those Companies ‘Willing’ to Pay to Pass TPP; Global Treaties/’Arrangements’ Done Deal for Secret Pre-Paid ‘Considerations’.

    TPP & Global Treaties/’Arrangements’;
    U.S. has made the Same Mistake that ‘Canada’ is Continuing to Make. Corporate Canada’s (Harper’s) Deliberate With-Holding Key Info from Treaty Partners Could Start Global Economic Meltdown with No Remorse for Misleading other Treaty Signatories.

    What do you think is a good criteria for ascertaining the health & robustness of an un-secret treaty? How will ‘The Criteria’ limit the Abuses of the Secret Treaties for the Taxpayers?

    What are the various different ways that we can All prevent The Secrecy Abuse, whether it be Human Rights Abuses like The Residential Schools, or, Civil Rights Abuses like the ‘foreign’, /or, ‘domestic’ treaties?

    If Not ‘Treason’, then, there are very compelling arguments for concluding that the corporations, whether they be, foreign, domestic, &/or, a blend, that do not respect the ‘lesser’ jurisdictions, ie. individual states, provinces, territories, or, municipalities, are not good corporate citizens of the host countries & thus, can be treated as ‘persona non grata’.

    Should Congressmen & Parliamentarians Have to Sully Their ‘Beliefs’ & Sales Pitches with ‘Sordid’ Facts that Come from Actually Reading & Understanding Global Treaties/’Arrangements’ Just the Facts; ‘We’, The People can Draw our Own Conclusions?
    2 Republican Senators Admit that They Have read the TPP.
    Zero Canadian Admissions.
    Congress/Parliaments; Deluded, or, Deluding; ‘IGNORAMUS et IGNORABIMUS’ (I do not know & I will Not Know)?
    ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodies’? (Who Will Guard the Guards?)

    Corporations Cut Costs & Dramatically Increase flat Profits by Not Suing each Other & by Suing the Little Guy (via ‘your’ Gov’t.) who is ‘Guilty’ even Prior to Tribunals & All of the Time.

    Teaching the Gordon Gekkos’ of Wall St., Congress, et al, some Humility & Integrity via Quantification?

    Global Treaties/’Arrangements’ with their Secret ‘Death-Star-Chamber’ Tribunals that The Global (non BRICS) Corporate Economy is in the Process of Secretly Passing will Finally Legitimize its Ability to secretly move money around, ie. ‘launder’ without Fear of Legal/government Regulation; ie. It’s the Global Corporate Economy’s Own Jurisdiction & they Insist that you Pay for it & Not them.

    What is Governors’/ Premieres’ Rationale for not Defending Taxpayers; Provinces/States Colluding with Feds?

    Corporate America’s Last Chance to Legitimize their Fleecing the Little, harmless Guy (95% – 99% of U.S.) Before Tanking the Global (non BRICS) Economy? Exploitable ‘Vulnerabilities’, Holes & Back Doors to Close.
    Can ‘your’ Federal Reps Willingly Answer ‘your’ Questions below If They haven’t Read the TPP & other Global Treaties
    Don’t Forget to Demand Your Money Back for ‘Supplementing’ Fed Rep’s Wages & Future Considerations at Incompetency (‘I didn’t know.) Tribunals.
    How many ‘Preferred’ Shares are You Selling Your Right to Sue The Global Corporate Economy for?

    Global Treaties Not about How Much Trade, but, How to ‘Vichy’ Profits & Who to Trade with to ‘Undermine’ AIIB.
    Shifting Costs to harmless Non Shareholders to Inflate ‘Profits & Dividends’.
    Is it Time to Cool off the ‘Stockbrokers’ again; Buy Gold?
    TPP & Global Corporate Treaties/’Arrangements more about Tort ‘Abolishment’ than Tort ‘Reform’?

    Not ‘good corporate citizens’ of the host countries respecting existing ‘lesser’ jurisdictions, then ‘persona non grata’.
    Making the leaders of TPP, Shareholders, et al, ‘Persona non Grata’; Shareholders’ Meetings I.D. Toxic Neighbors, In-laws, et al?

    Treaty Signatories Unwittingly Liable for W.A.D. Accord Compensation?
    Global Corporate Leaders (G-7) may have similar ‘Difficulties’ Dealing with Corporate Canada’s Pariah Prime Minister Harper as Pope Francis has ‘Difficulties’ Apologizing to the PM Harper for Residential Schools’ Abuses while PM Continues to Blame & Punish Those Who He Has Been Deliberately Depriving of the Info? Signatories Beware.

    TPP (& Global Treaties/’Arrangements’) Secrecy More, Or, Less than Canadian ‘Cultural Genocide’ Secrecy & ‘les Autres’ Abuses?
    As Pres. G.H. Bush said re; the NAFTA ‘dispute resolution’; ‘Well, you should have known…’.

    But, If Not PUTIN; ‘The WHITE KNIGHT’, then Who Do YOU Want to Bankroll the Saving of the harmless NON shareholders of the World from Fast Tracking TPP’s, CETA’s (TTIP) Secret ‘Death-Star-Chamber’ Tribunal Penalties?
    Will Iran, China, the Muslim World, et al, Support Putin in Suits?
    How about Warren Buffett, &/or, the ‘coveted’ Hong Kong investor, et al?
    FULL Article, see;
    Also see; ‘The MERKEL (Chancellor of Germany) Letter; To Sue, or Be Sued?’ (
    Please consider sharing the enclosed information & questions with 10 friends who will share it with 10 others…