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Consumer funded ad slams secret trade treaty

CHOICE says Australians have a right to know if their rights are being traded away

5 December 2013

CHOICE will be running an advertisement in The Australian papers tomorrow (5 December) to inform the Australian public about the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement being negotiated in Singapore this weekend. 

The consumer group raised the money for the advertisement from among the more than 11,000 ordinary Australians who signed a CHOICE petition calling on the government to release the draft text of the trade agreement.  

“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,” says CHOICE CEO, Alan Kirkland.   

The news comes in the wake of Wikileaks releasing a draft of the TPP’s Intellectual Property chapter last month that indicated 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
  • Reduce access to affordable medicines
“CHOICE is concerned that the final agreement will be signed off with no scrutiny from the Australian public and media,” says CHOICE CEO, Alan Kirkland. 

“The only groups which have been given official access to the text are the negotiators, governments and the industry lobbyists of American corporations.” 

Under the US Government’s Trade Representative scheme, hundreds of so-called ‘cleared advisors’, mostly industry groups and companies, have had been able to access the negotiations. Meanwhile, everyone else has been locked-out - including Australian consumers. 

“We are calling on the government to bring Australian consumers to the negotiating table – especially with so much at stake,” Mr Kirkland says.

“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.” 

CHOICE is also concerned 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. 
The trade talks have been underway since 2010 in complete secrecy, with the contents hidden from consumers and the general public. 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a negotiation involving 12 countries, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States of America and Vietnam. 

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