Standing up for Canberra

Hong Kong Chamber: A Letter from Canberra

As I write, the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement is gathering momentum – with negotiations in their final stages.

The TPP is being negotiated by 12 countries including Australia, the United States, Japan and South Korea. It does not include China and therefore Hong Kong.

The trade deal includes significant potential benefits for Australia, like enhanced market access for our goods and services among the eleven other countries, with potential for future country membership. Increased trade opportunities bring increased wealth and jobs.

The TPP could be a stepping stone to closer economic and regional engagement across the Asia-Pacific

However there are also a number of concerns surrounding the deal.

I heard from a large number of concerned Canberrans at a TTP community forum I held last month, which saw trade experts explore the benefits and costs of the proposed TPP.

The investor-state dispute settlement aspect of the TPP is one aspect of the deal causing significant concern.

The ISDS clause would allow foreign corporations to sue governments that introduce policy that hurts their business.

For example – the Australian Government is currently being sued by the Hong Kong branch of Philip Morris cigarettes for implementing plain packaging – a policy which Phillip Morris says has damaged its profitability.

Many Canberrans were also concerned about the TPP’s potential to increase the cost of pharmaceuticals because it reportedly restricts foreign governments’ rights to approve generic drugs that copy American brands.

The Federal Opposition is calling for further transparency from the Australian Government before the deal is signed – with many Australians unaware of the potential impacts or disadvantages.

The Labor Party believes the TPP must not affect our ability to deliver public services, undermine labour and environmental standards, result in higher prices for medicines or undermine the PBS, radically alter the existing legal balance between creators and consumers of intellectual property, or compromise our sovereignty by committing to foreign investor protection, through an investor-state dispute settlement.

We believe in opening up the Australian economy and our society to the world, however we will always assess proposed agreements on their merits to ensure that they are in the national interest.

Labor also believes that Parliament should see the final text of trade agreements before they are signed.