The Prime Minister must not trade away vital health and social policies in her enthusiasm to cooperate with the US government in Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement talks underway in Hawaii, the Australian Greens said today.
"The United States, which is driving this agenda, is coming back to get what it didn't succeed in getting through the US-Australia free trade agreement," Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.
"The Prime Minister must immediately release the negotiating text so that all Australians can see exactly what is under threat. The fact that the US is insisting it be kept secret is of great concern.
"The Greens support a fair trade agenda which enables greater global cooperation and trade and helps lift people out of poverty while improving workers' rights, environmental protection and social policies. A free trade agenda which waters down all these rights is not fair.
"From leaked documents it is clear that the US Pharmaceutical companies want to extend patent periods beyond twenty years, making drugs more expensive and delaying cheaper generic drugs. They also want to challenge government pricing provisions which is a direct assault on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme
"It is also clear that the US tobacco companies want provisions for investor state dispute processes so that they can sue governments that take action to diminish their market. No doubt Australia's brand new plain packaging laws would be first cab off the rank.
"Prime Minister Gillard says the TPP will be great for primary industry, yet DAFF struggled to identify any benefits when asked in Senate Estimates hearings only a few weeks ago.
"Farmers know that free trade has not been fair trade because they have to compete against low wage economies with lax or no environmental standards. There are no enforceable labour or environmental standards in this proposed deal, begging the question as to how Australian producers will compete on a level playing field with signatories such as Peru, Chile, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
"Other areas under threat include local content rules in film and television which are among the best ways of nurturing Australia's creative voice from actors, directors, musicians and more.
"Only last December, the Productivity Commission told the government that Australia's six free trade agreements have not produced ‘substantial commercial benefit'.
"No one can forget the exaggerated claims by Howard Government Trade Minister, Mark Vaille, of the hundreds of thousands of jobs that would result from the US-Australia FTA. Instead, the Productivity Commission has found that the copyright provisions alone have imposed a $700 million cost to the Australian economy.
"The Productivity Commission has argued that, before agreeing to further free trade agreements, Australia should first consider whether trade facilitation, investor protection and mutual recognition of standards might deliver the same or greater benefits. "The Australian Greens agree and will do what we can to ensure that this US-biased deal gets full parliamentary scrutiny."