Significant Concerns About TPP Raised Down Under

from the this-isn't-how-it's-supposed-to-work dept

We've seen politicians in South America note some significant concerns about the TPP efforts, and it appears that some politicians on the other side of the Pacific have similar concerns about the agreement. Some Australian elected officials are starting to ask serious questions about Australia's participation in TPP. The full line of questions and answers from Senator Scott Ludlam to the lead Australian negotiator shows that TPP negotiators Down Under are similarly evasive as our friends over at the USTR. One bit of questioning seems particularly relevant: Ludlam notes that Australia already has trade agreements with nearly all of the participating countries, and questions why TPP is even needed. He specifically asks: "Is this not a case of doubling up somewhat?" The official answer? "No." No elaboration. No, nothing.

The Australian Digital Alliance (the other link above) goes a bit further and notes that the TPP negotiations appear to violate the Australian Prime Minister's explicit trade policy directive:
IP provisions should only be included in cases where a rigorous economic analysis shows that the provisions would likely generate overall net benefits for the agreement partners.
And yet no such analysis appears to have been done. In fact, when quizzed on the economic analysis behind TPP, the negotiator doesn't seem to think one should be necessary at all. Makes you wonder what they're hiding from.

One other point: as with the US situation, the Australian negotiator seems particularly insistent that no one -- even the minister in charge of trade -- see the document until it's completed. And, even then, he notes that the agreement will be 1,000 pages long -- meaning by the time it's done there will be so much crap in there that no one will suitably be able to dig through the whole thing to find the easter eggs inserted for the benefit of certain industry players. This is all the more reason to make the negotiating documents public, but of course that's not going to happen:
Senator LUDLAM: Are you aware of whether or not the foreign minister has seen the current negotiating texts for the agreement?

Mr McCormick : The Australian foreign minister?

Senator LUDLAM: Yes.

Mr McCormick : I do not believe he has.

Senator LUDLAM: Is that because he is relatively new to the job? Should he have? Will he?

Mr McCormick : No. The agreement is the responsibility of the minister for trade. Obviously, we have not got a text that is agreed; therefore, the text has not been shown to the foreign minister. It is a text that is under development rather than a text that exists at this moment. The negotiations are ongoing.

Senator LUDLAM: Has the trade minister seen it?

Mr McCormick : An FTA agreement, when completed, will be approximately 1,000 pages long. As I said, it is not an agreement that is on the table for anybody to have a look at. We are negotiating in different negotiating groups on text when we have not yet agreed on text. It is not something that exists physically where you can say, 'Here, have a look at the text.' That is not the way these negotiations proceed.

Senator LUDLAM: That is fair enough. Very few members of the public have seen the text, so we are all in the dark. I am just wondering to what degree the minister has been brought into the loop. Perhaps DFAT could share the anticipated economic benefits, or the justification, for permitting provisions in the IP chapter of the agreement restricting parallel importations.

Mr McCormick : There is no agreement on that outcome. We are involved in a negotiation in which different parties have different objectives, and we are discussing those, but there is certainly no agreement.

Senator LUDLAM: The reason I am referring to that-and the only reason we know about that-is that there was a draft text that was leaked to the public last year that included language on rigid parallel importation restrictions. Is that missing from the versions we are negotiating now?

Mr McCormick : What I can say is that the text of the agreement is confidential between the parties. I know there are claims that there has been text released. We do not talk about claims of that, but certainly nothing is agreed until all the current nine-or more if we move to 10, 11 or12-members have agreed to it. Nothing has a status until it has been agreed at the end of the negotiations, so anything that people talk about is purely speculation.
McCormick here is being disingenuous in the extreme. While there's no final document to release, it is absolutely possible to release the negotiating position of the Australian government and/or draft texts. Since this agreement is going to clock in at a complex 1,000 pages, that's all the more reason to let not just the public pick through it, but also the very government that McCormack supposedly is representing.

Is there some rule that if you've been put on the TPP negotiating team, you have to be obnoxiously insulting to anyone who dares question why such an important agreement is being negotiated without public input?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:13am

    1000 pages?!

    Wow, a thousand pages of pure nonsense that make even the most "out-there" and outdated parts of the Bible look rational. I can't help but wonder if at least half of it is just an elaborate set of instructions on how to "disconnect" infringers.

     

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      Dionaea (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:46am

      Re: 1000 pages?!

      More like 999 pages of camouflage for that one page which gives the MAFIAA everything they want. Because it's obvious they're willing to sacrifice the truly important contents, policies on possibly life threatening counterfeited drugs and such, for something as stupid as copyright, of which it's not even clear that it's harmful at all. Why else would they, like they did with ACTA, only allow the final document to be ratified instead of allowing some input?

      It's like a toddler throwing a tantrum: "If I can't have that then I don' wan anythin!!!"

       

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      gorehound (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 8:26am

      Re: 1000 pages?!

      Bunch of Dick heads who will feel the Heat and in a Big Way.Let this crud build a bit more and soon we older Protesters will see a New Era of Civil Discontent that will make the late 60's - early 70's look like Kindergarden.
      We are sailing into some very bad storms and that is what I foresee.
      Toilet Paper Pact is just one of the many asinine things Gov is doing to all of us in USA & now to the World.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:21am

    He specifically asks: "Is this not a case of doubling up somewhat?" The official answer? "No." No elaboration. No, nothing.
    I bet he just didn't want to admit they were actually tripling up.

     

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    Rikuo (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:58am

    No need for these ministers to see this very important document, they were just elected by the people to represent them in government. Nobody important.
    Can someone fill me in on exactly when TPP insiders gained the legal authority to negotiate multinational treaties/trade agreements with absolutely no input or oversight from those in the various governments?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 7:43pm

      Re:

      The more important question is why they don't just say "Release the draft, or we are out, and you can find a new job"... of course that would displease their American masters, for way too long our politicians have ignored the public good to give the US whatever concessions it asks for.

       

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    Josef Anvil (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:06am

    Thank you internets

    It's actually wonderful that the public is able to get a proper view of how governments around the world actually work. We get to see that parts of our governments get to work in almost complete secrecy not only from the public but from within their own legislature. Whether this benefits the public or not, it certainly gives the impression that trade negotiations are meant to hide things from the public until they are actually put in action and it's too late to complain.

    The best part of it is that not only are the content industries fighting a losing battle, they are helping to advance the way the public views transparency in government. So let them keep fighting the advance of humanity, as they are only creating a massive Streisand Effect that is serving to wake the sleeping giant on the net.

     

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    like you care, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 3:13am

    oh, and ...

    Scott Ludlum for PM, I say.

    This guy is astonishingly good, for a politician.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 3:59am

    i would really like to know where the people come from that are involved in the TPP and similar 'behind closed doors, away from the people' discussions. who gave them the right to hold these discussions? are they all from private companies or are they mainly from government? if so, which parts of government? what right do they have to omit even government representatives from the meetings? to keep any results from everyone that isn't in the meetings? what authority do they have to negotiate laws that would apply to individual countries, let alone internationally? what safeguards are in place against corruption? against the erosion of peoples rights, freedoms and civil liberties? against handing world control over to corporations?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 7:14am

      Re:

      "what safeguards are in place against corruption? against the erosion of peoples rights, freedoms and civil liberties? against handing world control over to corporations?"

      Well there a big sturdy doors to keep you from hearing about it but nothing to keep it from happening.

       

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    Keii (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 4:41am

    Am I correct in understanding that they want countries to agree to TPP before they even let them know what it's about?

     

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      TtfnJohn (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 9:08am

      Re:

      That's about the size of it. The negotiators owe their jobs to the very governments they now won't talk to.

      In the parliamentary system, at some stage like right about now, that if the government won't order McCormick to stop his evasions and non answers that a motion of non-confidence should be introduced and the sitting government defeated.

      THAT might open a few eyes even if it does result in an election based on TPP in Australia which I'm sure those pulling the strings behind the scene really want right now. /s

      It would be fun, though.

       

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    That One Guy (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 4:52am

    A perfect way to get revenge:

    Would be for every government, once presented with the 'final' agreement to just treat it as the rough draft, and post it publicly so people can discus and make suggestions on it.

    Then make sure it's not voted on for however long they've been working on it, to make sure everyone has the chance to read over it and vote in the changes needed.

     

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    Cassius, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 6:44am

    Last name misspelled in second to last paragraph..

    Mike,

    'but also the very government that McCormack supposedly is representing'

     

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    Brent (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:40pm

    Seems to me that the guy on the TPP committee from the USTR should just be fired and replaced with someone who will talk to his superiors and Congress (and preferably the public). Once the new guy is hired, the TPP group will have to accept him as a replacement or face the possibility of the USA not being a supporting member of the TPP. Why can't they just fire him for insubordination?

     

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