As Crikey went to press, Australians were still waiting for the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations to conclude so we can finally learn the extent and detail of this massive free trade agreement. A final agreement was supposed to be made public this morning, but at midday trade ministers from the 12 Pacific rim countries — including our own Andrew Robb — were still locked in negotiations in Atlanta, with reported sticking points over agriculture and pharmaceuticals.
Thanks to WikiLeaks, we have seen several draft chapters of the agreement, but our own government has seen it fit to keep secret the details of a deal that could have far-reaching consequences for Australian voters and business — including the ability for foreign companies to sue governments for passing legislation that costs them money. And while the deal has been negotiated out of the sight of voters, the biggest US companies have not only been allowed to see the treaty text over the last few years, but in some cases have been allowed by the US government to dictate it.
The TPP has been criticised not only by NGOs, the Greens, environmental and health activists and human rights advocates, but by major economists around the world and by the hardheads of Australia’s own Productivity Commission, which has professed scepticism about the wild claims advanced by the current government about the benefits of preferred trade agreements.
If the Turnbull government fails to immediately refer the finalised TPP to the Productivity Commission for a full-scale assessment, there’s every reason to be suspicious that Australia’s interests have been sacrificed to those of large US corporations.