CHOICE, the publishers of the long-standing consumer advocate publication CHOICE Magazine, have raised money from Australians to run a newspaper ad campaign condemning the “secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership” trade treaty that threatens to strip Australians of various rights.
The ad campaign will be run in News Ltd’s newspaper “The Australian” today, the 5th of December, following a CHOICE petition signed by 11,000 everyday Aussies, “calling on the government to release the draft text of the trade agreement”, which is being negotiated this weekend in Singapore – following secret talks that have been in play since 2010.
iTWire colleague Graeme Philipson also looked at this issue a couple of weeks ago in his article entitled “TPP a ‘hugely dangerous’ and a ‘looming disaster’."
CHOICE CEO, Alan Kirkland, said in a statement that: “Given the government’s reluctance to reveal whether consumers’ interests are on the table, CHOICE is stepping in to inform Australians about the talks that are dominated by US commercial interests.”
CHOICE says the news comes via Wikileaks, which released a “draft of the TPP’s Intellectual Property chapter last month”.
This draft indicated that “Australians could potentially face a raft of anti-consumer provisions”, which could “criminalise copyright infringement by individual consumers even where no profit is made”, “ban parallel imports, preventing consumers from accessing cheaper products from overseas”, “entrench geo-blocking laws”, “charge internet service providers with responsibility for policing copyright law” and “reduce access to affordable medicines.”
Mr Kirkland said that: “CHOICE is concerned that the final agreement will be signed off with no scrutiny from the Australian public and media.
“The only groups which have been given official access to the text are the negotiators, governments and the industry lobbyists of American corporations.”
Astoundingly, while the Australian public has been left out, CHOICE says “hundreds” of advisors from mostly industry groups and companies “have had been able to access the negotiations.”
Mr Kirkland added that: “We are calling on the government to bring Australian consumers to the negotiating table – especially with so much at stake.
“Unfortunately, leaked texts indicate that US negotiators are pushing many provisions that would empower companies such as Apple, Adobe and Microsoft to charge Australian consumers more for software, games and digital downloads.
“This includes an outright ban of parallel imports and entrenching laws on geo-blocking. This comes just 6-months after a bi-partisan parliamentary committee recommended we scrap all parallel import bans and review our geo-blocking laws.”
Worryingly, CHOICE notes serious concern that the TPP could “restrict the Australian government’s ability to make decisions on food labelling, such as requiring palm oil to be labelled as an ingredient” and “contain an Investor State Dispute Settlement provision which would give foreign companies to sue the government for making laws on behalf of the Australian people.”
Other countries involved in the clandestine TPP deal besides Australia, the US and Singapore include “Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Vietnam”.