The TPP- Has Australia been hoodwinked again by more wily competitors?

beatnick_king_by_celestialess-d3ere9r Bohemian

Made in America

The New Zealand government was first to release the 30 chapters that comprise the text of the up till now secret Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement . The agreement — brings together Australia, the US, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore .

It has subsequently been released by other countries, including the United States, which according to the popular blog, has a logo that would probably cause the other party countries to raise an eyebrow (the TPP is “made in America” boasts the logo above).

I think the PM better take a look at the fine print now it’s available!

What appears to be going on was predicted by David Korten in his 1995 book, When Corporations Rule The World or the coming “corporate coup d’état.” This corporate coup includes the privatisation and offshoring of the judicial function delegated to the US court system in the Constitution or to any other nation's sovereign court system, through Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that strengthen existing ISDS procedures. The ISDS was deliberately omitted from the Howard Government's US-Australia FTA but is back bigger and better in this treaty giving foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits. According to Minister Robb, he has negotiated just for Australia some exceptions. How workable those riders are likely to be needs to be tested in coming weeks. The so called 'independent arbitrators' are paid handsomely by the hour which gives them little incentive to dismiss cases. The lack of any requirement to consider precedent gives wide scope for creative judgments – the sort of arbitrary edicts notable in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

To date, the highest ISDS award I understand to be USD2.3 billion to Occidental Oil against “US enemy” the government of Ecuador, over its termination of an oil-concession contract, although the termination was apparently legal. Under the TPP, however, even larger and more unpredictable judgments can be anticipated, since the sort of “investment” it protects includes not just “the commitment of capital or other resources” but the expectation of gain or profit.

That means the rights of corporations extend not merely to their factories and other “capital” but to the profits they expect to receive. The mere threat of a massive damage award for impacting “expected corporate profits” could be enough to discourage prospective legislation by lawmakers particularly for smaller nations.

I wonder whether those Asian nations apparently anxious to sign up are aware of the openings this agreement provides for US corporations in particular. Let’s stick with the bi-lateral FTA's thanks. I think we can manage those' and stay clear of deals which involve increased power for global corporations. Australia's FTA with the US has been one of our least valuable financially from what I can see and one which has placed us further into the negative on trade. If this TPP goes through, I believe that some US corporations will ensure GMO’s are forced on us along with the introduction or continuance of highly controversial agricultural chemicals and dubious pharmaceuticals. And if we don’t like it we will be sued in an offshore tribunal. Bilaterals are manageable – treaties are binding and could amount to a takeover if not carefully considered. I am far more cynical than the Trade Minister in this regard.

We may be a modern day David but Goliath is a whole lot bigger 3000 years on!


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