As Trade Ministers from 12 Pacific Rim countries meet in Singapore, fair trade, public health, environment, church, unions (including the ASU) and other community groups have endorsed a letter to Trade Minister Andrew Robb. The letter calls on the Minister to reject harmful proposals in the TPP, which should not be agreed in secret negotiations.
The letter was signed by 46 diverse groups, representing millions of Australians, and expresses strong opposition to proposals in the TPP which would undermine public health, allow foreign companies to sue Australian governments, erode workers' rights and environmental protections, increase copyright leading to higher costs, restrict internet use and reduce Australian content in media.
Dr Deborah Gleeson, spokesperson for the Public Health Association, said that the cost of the TPP to public health could outweigh any trade benefits for Australia.
"Extensions on patents for medicines would cause higher prices for new medicines for longer. Proposals seeking to restrict government regulation of medicine prices would undermine our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This would increase costs for governments and consumers," said Dr Gleeson.
"The negotiations have now entered their fifth year. This shows that many governments believe that these proposals are not in their national interest. We call on the government to reject these proposals and to release the text of the TPP for public and parliamentary debate before any decision to endorse it is made by Cabinet," said Dr Patricia Ranald, Convenor of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network.
The ASU is particularly concerned about what the trade agreements mean for privatisation of public sector assets, what rights local government and their communities might lose and how Australian work might be contracted away.
If workers in other countries can't form unions, and consequently don't have decent workplace safety laws and enforcement, plus the basic rights we expect all workers to have, this will have dire effects.
"Having good unions and enforceable labour rights for workers in all countries we trade with is not just good for other countries' workers, but good for Australian workers – exploitation eventually hurts us all," said Greg McLean, ASU Assistant National Secretary.