Tag: Secret

Australian oil well leaked into ocean for months – but spill kept secret | Environment | The Guardian

Offshore oil and gas regulator says there was a 10,500-litre spill in April 2016 but refuses to reveal where it occurred or company responsible

Source: Australian oil well leaked into ocean for months – but spill kept secret | Environment | The Guardian

Scott Morrison says Christians will be focus of Australia’s refugee intake | Australia news | The Guardian

Social services minister joins Eric Abetz in urging religious focus as Muslim and Christian leaders raise concerns that it would foster discrimination

Source: Scott Morrison says Christians will be focus of Australia’s refugee intake | Australia news | The Guardian

Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a Pending Disaster

Republicans who now run Congress say they want to cooperate with President Obama, and point to the administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, as the model. The only problem is the TPP would be a disaster.

If you haven’t heard much about the TPP, that’s part of the problem right there. It would be the largest trade deal in history — involving countries stretching from Chile to Japan, representing 792 million people and accounting for 40 percent of the world economy – yet it’s been devised in secret.

Lobbyists from America’s biggest corporations and Wall Street’s biggest banks have been involved but not the American public. That’s a recipe for fatter profits and bigger paychecks at the top, but not a good deal for most of us, or even for most of the rest of the world.

First some background. We used to think about trade policy as a choice between “free trade” and “protectionism.” Free trade meant opening our borders to products made elsewhere. Protectionism meant putting up tariffs and quotas to keep them out.

In the decades after World War II, America chose free trade. The idea was that each country would specialize in goods it produced best and at least cost. That way, living standards would rise here and abroad. New jobs would be created to take the place of jobs that were lost. And communism would be contained.

For three decades, free trade worked. It was a win-win-win.

But in more recent decades the choice has become far more complicated and the payoff from trade agreements more skewed to those at the top.

Tariffs are already low. Negotiations now involve such things as intellectual property, financial regulations, labor laws, and rules for health, safety, and the environment.

It’s no longer free trade versus protectionism. Big corporations and Wall Street want some of both.

They want more international protection when it comes to their intellectual property and other assets. So they’ve been seeking trade rules that secure and extend their patents, trademarks, and copyrights abroad, and protect their global franchise agreements, securities, and loans.

But they want less protection of consumers, workers, small investors, and the environment, because these interfere with their profits. So they’ve been seeking trade rules that allow them to override these protections.

Not surprisingly for a deal that’s been drafted mostly by corporate and Wall Street lobbyists, the TPP provides exactly this mix.

What’s been leaked about it so far reveals, for example, that the pharmaceutical industry gets stronger patent protections, delaying cheaper generic versions of drugs. That will be a good deal for Big Pharma but not necessarily for the inhabitants of developing nations who won’t get certain life-saving drugs at a cost they can afford.

The TPP also gives global corporations an international tribunal of private attorneys, outside any nation’s legal system, who can order compensation for any “unjust expropriation” of foreign assets.

Even better for global companies, the tribunal can order compensation for any lost profits found to result from a nation’s regulations. Philip Morris is using a similar provision against Uruguay (the provision appears in a bilateral trade treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland), claiming that Uruguay’s strong anti-smoking regulations unfairly diminish the company’s profits.

Anyone believing the TPP is good for Americans take note: The foreign subsidiaries of U.S.-based corporations could just as easily challenge any U.S. government regulation they claim unfairly diminishes their profits – say, a regulation protecting American consumers from unsafe products or unhealthy foods, investors from fraudulent securities or predatory lending, workers from unsafe working conditions, taxpayers from another bailout of Wall Street, or the environment from toxic emissions.

The administration says the trade deal will boost U.S. exports in the fast-growing Pacific basin where the United States faces growing economic competition from China. The TPP is part of Obama’s strategy to contain China’s economic and strategic prowess.

Fine. But the deal will also allow American corporations to outsource even more jobs abroad.

In other words, the TPP is a Trojan horse in a global race to the bottom, giving big corporations and Wall Street banks a way to eliminate any and all laws and regulations that get in the way of their profits.

At a time when corporate profits are at record highs and the real median wage is lower than it’s been in four decades, most Americans need protection – not from international trade but from the political power of large corporations and Wall Street.

The Trans Pacific Partnership is the wrong remedy to the wrong problem. Any way you look at it, it’s just plain wrong.

Tony Abbott and the Coalition: stand up for Australian democracy and stop the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership.

For years, there’s been talk of creating a new free trade deal that would span countries bordering the Asia-Pacific, including the US, Canada, New Zealand, as well as several countries in Latin America and Asia. The deal is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – or “TPP” for short.The TPP agenda is being driven by big business, big pharmaceuticals and big tobacco – but the impacts will affect all Australians.Between foreign corporations suing our governments over public health measures and environmental protection laws, higher pharmaceutical prices, and surveillance of Australians’ internet usage, there’s a lot for citizens to be concerned about – which is why Prime Minister Abbott and Trade Minister Robb are keeping it quiet.

What we do know from leaked parts of the agreement is terrifying. But most Australians haven’t even heard about the TPP. That’s why we need to sound the alarm now, and sound it loudly.

Can you sign the petition calling on our politicians not to sign our rights away and share the video with everyone you know?

Want to know more?

If the trade agreement includes Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions, it could mean that foreign-owned companies will have the power to sue the Australian Government for decisions that adversely impact on their investments in Australia. Worst of all, these cases would be played out in secret international courts which only corporations have access to.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is currently undergoing negotiations between 12 countries: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

This is already being seen in the case of tobacco giant Phillip Morris, which is using an ISDS provision in the Australian-Hong Kong treaty to sue the Australian Government over its plain-packaging laws. When Quebec placed a ban on dangerous fracking processes in a local river, a trade agreement similar to the TPP made it possible for a foreign-owned energy company to file a $250 million lawsuit against the Canadian government.It’s already happening in El Salvador, where a Canadian company is suing the government for $315 million in “loss of future profits” because local citizens won a hard-fought campaign against a gold mine that threatened to contaminate their water supplies.It’s happening in Argentina, where the government imposed a freeze on water and energy bills during the GFC and was sued by an international utilities company.

It’s even happening in Canada, where American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly is demanding $500 million in compensation — as well as changes to Canadian patent laws — because courts revoked two of its patents for lack of evidence around the drugs’ supposed benefits.

For more on the potential dangers of ISDS provisions, see ABC Radio National’s story here.

The treaty gives global pharmaceutical companies far-reaching power to extend their patents in order to prevent or delay the manufacture of cheaper generic medicines and curb subsidy programs that keep drugs more affordable in Australia and elsewhere. Imagine having to pay $50-$100 – or more – for a simple asthma inhaler. That’s the average cost in the US, when they currently sell for less than $10 here.

…and dob you in for possible copyright infringement. We all know piracy is illegal, but this treaty gives US companies the power to pull strings that could make heavy-handed spying, fines, internet service disconnection and even criminal charges the norm for even the most minor and potentially unintentional infringements. And what about privacy?

When Quebec placed a ban on dangerous fracking processes in a local river, a trade agreement similar to the TPP made it possible for a foreign-owned energy company to file a $250 million lawsuit against the Canadian government. We really don’t need foreign-owned mining companies bullying our government or preventing us from protecting our land.

For more information about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, click here to read the Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network’s (AFTINET) explainer.