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?