Australia: 53 health, church, union, environment and aid organisations call for Labor to reject failed TPP

Fifty-three diverse organisations representing more than two million Australians have endorsed a letter calling on Labor to reject the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and ensure fairness in future trade deals, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). 

The endorsing organisations are concerned that Prime Minister Turnbull may still try to push a vote for the failed TPP’s implementing legislation in Parliament, despite US President Donald Trump’s formal withdrawal from the deal. The TPP text makes it clear the current deal cannot come into force without the US.

Labor Leader Bill Shorten has said that the TPP is dead, but has not said Labor would vote against the TPP legislation if the government introduces it. The legislation could be defeated with the combined votes of Labor, the Greens and the Nick Xenophon team.

The groups write that the TPP would not have delivered promised jobs and growth. Instead it gave extra rights to global corporations to sue governments over public interest laws and to keep medicine prices high, and meant increased numbers of vulnerable temporary migrant workers. This would damage our democracy, public health, workers’ rights and environment.

“Not only would it be futile to endorse an agreement that would never come into effect but it would also be damaging for future trade debate in Australia,” they write.

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“Instead of endorsing a failed agreement, we urge you to embrace the opportunity for better trade deals in the future, which support rather than undermine labour rights, access to medicines, and democratic rights to regulate in the public interest.”

AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald welcomed statements by Labor members of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties last November which criticised the TPP as risky and harmful to Australia’s interests, She urged the Senate Inquiry due to report on the TPP on Tuesday to reject it.

“Unfortunately, leaked documents show that TPP-like provisions on stronger medicine monopolies and corporate rights to sue governments are being pushed by some TPP governments in other trade negotiations like the RCEP,” she said.

“We should leave behind bad deals like the TPP so Australia can move towards fairer trade agreements in the future - agreements that benefit people and the planet.”

Contact Dr Patricia Ranald 0419 695 841

Full letter:

6 February 2016

Dear (Parliamentarians as addressed),

Reject the failed TPP and ensure fairness in future trade deals, including the RCEP

We the undersigned 53 community organisations, representing over two million Australians, call on you to reject the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement by voting against its implementing legislation if it is introduced in Parliament.

President Donald Trump has formally withdrawn from the TPP. The text of the agreement makes it clear the current deal cannot come into force without the US as the largest economy.

Even in the unlikely event that there are moves to proceed without the US, this would require a different text to be renegotiated and signed, and the whole parliamentary process would have to start again. Labor Leader Bill Shorten has said the TPP is dead.

Despite this, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he may still push for parliament to pass the implementing legislation for the current TPP text.

Not only would it be futile to ratify an agreement that would never come into effect but it would also be damaging for future trade debate in Australia.

The TPP had many fundamental flaws which would have been damaging for our democracy, public health, workers’ rights and the environment. These include:

• allowing foreign corporations to sue governments in unfair international tribunals (ISDS)
• locking in strong medicine monopolies and extending monopolies on expensive biologic medicines, delaying cheaper forms of those medicines
• weak labour rights commitments, and more temporary migrant workers who are vulnerable to exploitation, without testing if local workers are available
• lacking enforceable commitments to key international environment agreements and failing to mention climate change

The TPP would also have brought few economic benefits and would have resulted in 39,000 net job losses for Australia.

These concerns were acknowledged by Labor members of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in their critical commentary in the JSCOT report on the TPP.

Instead of endorsing a failed agreement, we urge you to embrace the opportunity to strive for higher quality trade deals in the future, which support rather than undermine labour rights, access to medicines, and democratic rights to regulate in the public interest.

In particular, the TPP should not be used as a model for other trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The RCEP involves ten ASEAN countries, plus China, Japan, India, Korea, Australia and New Zealand, but does not include the US. The aim is to finalise the agreement by the end of 2017.

Unfortunately, leaked RCEP documents show that TPP-like provisions on stronger medicine monopolies and corporate rights to sue governments are being pushed by some TPP governments in RCEP negotiations. Already, these proposals are generating the same opposition from public health and other community groups that they did in the TPP.

By rejecting the TPP’s implementing legislation, Labor would be ensuring that these damaging provisions are not seen as a model for the RCEP or other trade agreements.

We would be happy to meet with you or speak over the phone to discuss these concerns in more detail. My phone number is 0419 695 841.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Patricia Ranald, Convenor, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network

This letter is endorsed by the following 53 organisations

National Organisations
Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Australian Conservation Foundation
Australian Council of Trade Unions
Public Health Association of Australia
Older Women’s Network Australia
GetUp!
Oxfam Australia
ActionAid Australia
AID/WATCH
Jubilee Australia
The Wilderness Society
Friends of the Earth Australia
Greenpeace
FOODwatch
GeneEthics
Catholic Religious Australia
Columban Mission Institute Centre for Peace Ecology and Justice
Pax Christi Australia
Presentation Society of Australia and PNG
Sisters of Charity
The Grail Global Justice Network
Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education
Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA
Australian Education Union
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation
Australian Services Union
CEPU Electrical Division National
Community and Public Sector Union (SPSF Group)
Finance Sector Union
National Tertiary Education Union
National Union of Workers
Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia
United Voice
SEARCH Foundation

State and regional organisations
Asian Women at Work (NSW)
Mothers Advancing Deliciously Good Eating (Victoria)
Catholics in Coalition for Justice and Peace (NSW)
Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (NSW)
Presentation Congregation Queensland
Presentation Sisters Western Australia
Locals into Victoria’s Environment (LIVE)
Sutherland Shire Environment Centre (NSW)
Unions WA
Communication Workers Union Victoria
Combined Pensioners and Superannuants (CPSA) NSW
Electrical Trades Union WA
Hunter Workers (Newcastle Trades Hall Council)
Maritime Union of Australia Victoria
NSW Nurses and Midwives Association
NSW Teachers’ Federation
South Coast Labour Council (NSW)

The endorsing organisations are concerned that Prime Minister Turnbull may still try to push a vote for the failed TPP’s implementing legislation in Parliament, despite US President Donald Trump’s formal withdrawal from the deal. The TPP text makes it clear the current deal cannot come into force without the US.

Labor Leader Bill Shorten has said that the TPP is dead, but has not said Labor would vote against the TPP legislation if the government introduces it. The legislation could be defeated with the combined votes of Labor, the Greens and the Nick Xenophon team.

The groups write that the TPP would not have delivered promised jobs and growth. Instead it gave extra rights to global corporations to sue governments over public interest laws and to keep medicine prices high, and meant increased numbers of vulnerable temporary migrant workers. This would damage our democracy, public health, workers’ rights and environment.

“Not only would it be futile to endorse an agreement that would never come into effect but it would also be damaging for future trade debate in Australia,” they write.

“Instead of endorsing a failed agreement, we urge you to embrace the opportunity for better trade deals in the future, which support rather than undermine labour rights, access to medicines, and democratic rights to regulate in the public interest.”

AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald welcomed statements by Labor members of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties last November which criticised the TPP as risky and harmful to Australia’s interests, She urged the Senate Inquiry due to report on the TPP on Tuesday to reject it.

“Unfortunately, leaked documents show that TPP-like provisions on stronger medicine monopolies and corporate rights to sue governments are being pushed by some TPP governments in other trade negotiations like the RCEP,” she said.

“We should leave behind bad deals like the TPP so Australia can move towards fairer trade agreements in the future - agreements that benefit people and the planet.”

Contact Dr Patricia Ranald 0419 695 841

Source: AFTINET