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Australian Government talks with USA at APEC must not result in giving away sovereign rights or increase costs for Australians

06 October 2013 By ACTU

The ACTU calls for leadership and restraint during the APEC leaders' meeting in Bali amid fears the Coalition could sign away Australia's right to protect itself against international lawsuits and enter patent deals that could see the cost of PBS medicines skyrocket by as much as 20 per cent.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said, "After almost four years of negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) Australia should expect immense pressure from the US to sign agreements that are not in our interests."

"We could end up in a situation where foreign corporations are able to sue the Australian Government and vicariously tax payers for making laws that protect our best interest - for example, laws that protect farm land or our health. It's outrageous."

With the USA's push to have certain clauses called "ISDS" foreign corporations could sue the Australian Government in response to developments like we are seeing in the area of coal seam gas exploration. Communities and farmers want appropriate analysis completed before exploration can begin. State governments have agreed to this but it could be overturned by foreign companies who would complain about lack of trading rights."

"We are already seeing this issue with Phillip Morris suing the Australian government for introducing plain cigarette packaging. This is possibly due to an early 1990s investment treaty with Hong Kong.

"The 'ISDS' clause effectively gives corporations more rights than governments.

"It is important that the Prime Minister holds strong on these issues and not cave into pressure that would benefit the multinational corporations but handicap the Australian Government.

"Another great concern is intellectual property rights and the impact on affordable medicines. The US is pushing many changes to intellectual property including 5 year extension of patent periods.

"This would further delay generic medicines entering the market. Countries that have agreed to similar provisions have seen the cost of medicines rise by up to twenty percent and potentially more. There has also been delay of many generic medicines in the market, again increasing the cost for consumers.

"Australians would expect that Mr Abbott does not sign away our sovereignty or accept an agreement that decreases access to affordable medicines, which would affect all Australians particularly the most vulnerable.

"I hope Mr Abbott treads very carefully on these issues and considers the plethora of evidence and case studies that argue these provisions in trade agreements are not in the interest of Australians."

Media contact: Eleni Hale 0418 793 885 or Ben Ruse 0409 510 879

Contact Details
Name: Greg McLean, ASU Assistant National Secretary
Telephone: 0419 796 801