Consumer watchdog Choice has raised concerns over the ‘highly secretive’ Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, and is calling upon the Federal Government to release the contents of the negotiations.
The TPP is a free trade treaty involving 12 countries including: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, USA and Vietnam, and Choice states that 19 rounds of negotiations have taken place in complete secrecy since 2010 with all contents hidden from consumers and the general public.
Choice has managed to obtain leaked documents from the TPP negotiations and has raised concerns that the deal could hurt Australian consumers and industry by:
- Limiting the government’s ability to make decisions on food labelling and public health, undermining current process, such as the potential for improved palm oil labelling
- Forcing Australia to adopt draconian copyright laws, including an outright ban on parallel imports
- Allowing foreign-owned electricity companies to challenge moves by our governments to reduce overinvestment in poles and wires infrastructure, the main factor driving up electricity prices
“CHOICE supports the benefits that free trade can bring to consumers, with access to a greater range of products and more competitive prices,” says Choice CEO Alan Kirkland.
“We also welcome recent comments from the Government saying there must be net benefits to Australia from any deal, and we recognise some level of confidentiality is part and parcel of negotiations.
“However, Choice is increasingly concerned at the absolute secrecy surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It means there is no way of knowing whether some of the leaked texts and reports from the deal pose real risks to Australian consumers,” Kirkland says.
Kirkland says that Choice is calling on the Australian Government to include consumers in the negotiation process by releasing the reports before the next stage of talks, which are scheduled to take place in Bali this December commence.
“There’s a lot at stake in this process for Australian consumers – and Australian businesses – but under the current process the Australian public won’t get to see the agreement until it is already signed. This isn’t good enough.”
Choice says that consumer organisations in New Zealand and Japan together with the international consumer organisation, Consumers International, have also raised similar concerns over the secretive talks.