TPP irreconcilable with UN sustainable development goals, say critics

Trade Ministers agreed on TPP. (Photo: Supplied)

Trade Ministers agreed on TPP Monday. (Photo: Supplied)

Last week, leaders from around the world announced their commitment to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals which outlined the solutions to address global climate change, environmental degradation, poor health, and poverty. In juxtaposition to this historic announcement, trade ministers from 12 countries reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Monday which sets the economic rules for 40 percent of the world economy in Atlanta, Georgia.

The historic pact was signed by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.

Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said in a statement that the TPP will drive Australia’s integration in a region that underpins Australia’s prosperity.  The deal cemented Australia’s successes in concluding trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea, and other partners in the region.

The TPP will eliminate over 98 percent of tariffs among signatories and removes import taxes at around AUS$9 billion of Australian trade. Robb said one third of Australia’s total goods and services exports – worth $109 billion – were sent to TPP countries last year.

However, fierce opposition against the deal is expected. Australia’s Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, for one, opposes the provisions of the pact, including TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems which allows a foreign tribunal to intervene with domestic policies.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) International blasted the agreement, saying several of the UN sustainability goals are irreconcilable with the TPP. There are 17 goals and 169 specific targets.

Sam Cossar-Gilbert, FoE international economic justice coordinator, said: “This is a sad day for our planet, as the TPP favours safeguards for corporate investments over safeguards for nature.  The TPP chapters on technical barriers to trade will threaten regulators’ capacities to effectively regulate the roughly 85,000 chemicals in commerce needed to protect human health and our environment.”

Renowned scholars and economists Joseph E. Stiglitz and Adam S. Hersh warned the TPP is a charade. It is not about “free trade” but rather “an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies.”

Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.

The TPP is claimed to be shrouded in secrecy. They said it is protected under the ISDS systems which allow foreign investors gain new rights to sue national governments in binding private arbitration for regulations they see as diminishing the expected profitability of their investments.

Stiglitz and Hersh said that such provisions make it hard for governments to conduct their basic functions including protecting their citizens’ health and safety, ensuring economic stability, and safeguarding the environment.

In Australia, Philip Morris International is already prosecuting the government in a $50 million legal suit before a tribunal in Singapore for its plain cigarette packaging.

TPP protest in New Zealand (Photo: Wikipedia)

TPP protest in New Zealand (Photo: Wikipedia)

FoE said, “Even very simple consumer sustainability measures like efficiency rating and food labelling on imported goods could be impossible under TPP, because labelling regulation can be deemed a barrier to trade. ”

The TPP faces a number of challenges prior to its ratification as protests and rallies are expected to be held worldwide. In the U.S., it faces a hostile Congress while it is an election issue in Canada. There is also a court action in Japan and a widespread opposition in Australia .

FoE warned the TPP will threaten people and the planet, if ratified.

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Australia caves in to global pressure, supports climate fund

Australia must realise time has changed and it has to abandon its recalcitrant stance on climate change especially when the world is moving away from dirty fossil fuels. Re-blogging:

Once again, Australia could not elude international pressure at the COP20 climate summit in Lima, Peru.  It finally pledged to contribute to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The government’s representative to the summit, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop,announced on Wednesday the country has committed it will give $200 million to the fund designed to help poorer nations to tackle climate change.

With Australia’s commitment, the GCF has already reached a threshold pledge of approximately $10.14 billion equivalent contributed by 24 countries. The UN’s CGF is raising $10 billion.

A dramatic turn around, Abbott has been notorious in his anti-climate change stance. A self-confessed climate skeptic, Australia became the first country in the world to have scrapped the carbon tax under his leadership. He did not show up in the UN climate summit in September and he we was also adamant not to include climate change in the G20 agenda which Brisbane hosted last month.

The meeting between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jingping ahead of the Brisbane summit sealed a historic deal on carbon emissions cuts within the next decade by the two countries. Political observers said the deal is a game changer ushering in a new leadership to step up action on climate change. Abbott battled to ignore the subject throughout the G20 summit, but a communique to culminate the event pressed Abbott to back down. Majority prevailed.

President of COP20, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.

President of COP20, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.

In Lima, participants from around 190 countries did it again. Developing countries and conservation groups said it is time for the Abbott camp to admit the urgency of the issue..

Canada,  Australia’s partner in climate denial, also recently pledged about $US250 million.

The money which Australia pledged, will be paid over four years. It will be sourced out from Australia’s aid program budget.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said the backflip was evidence of the intense international pressure Australia had been under to commit to the fund. She added there is no way Australia could have continued with its stand against global finance and be viewed as negotiating in good faith,

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