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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Singapore: a new investment prospect for Australian mining tycoons

Australian mining billionnaires have got enough when it comes to exorbitant Government taxes. Now, they are looking for investment elsewhere.

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart is reportedly bought two condo units worth AU$43.8 million.

Gina Rinehart, owner of Hancock Prospecting Pty. Ltd. and known as the world’s richest woman, set her eyes on property investment in Singapore to avoid higher taxes on capital gains.

Fairfax Media said Rinehart purchased two condominium units costing $S57 million ($43.8 million) in the Seven Palms Sentosa Cove. One unit on the third floor of the four-storey complex costs about $S23.3 million while the top-floor unit fetches up to nearly $S33.9 million.

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart acquires the largest stake at Fairfax media. (Photo: Patrick Hamilton)

Along with Rinehart, coal magnate Nathan Tinkler of Whitehaven Coal Ltd. is also rumoured to have put off his plans for a $13 million beachfront home in Newcastle, New South Wales and “shipped his family off to Singapore.”  Tinkler is said to have bought in the Santosa Cove area as this is the only area on the island nation where foreigners can buy property, Yahoo Singapore reported.

Live Trading News said Tinkler’s Sydney-based public relations firm confirmed the tycoon’s relocation to Singapore to enable Tinkler to be closer to his Asian partners.  Although the main office remains in Brisbane, the Tinkler would allot his time 50 percent overseas, the report added.

According to Brisbane Times, his spokesman, Tim Allerton, said the principal place of residence would now be Singapore. “He just wants to be closer to the markets, to Asia.”  Tinkler’s wife and their four school-age children left Newcastle to join him, Allerton said.

This beachfront property beckons wealthy expat elites. (Photo: SMH)

Located near Tanjong Beach, Seven Palms is a four-storey residential development that features just 41 units. Nearing completion, it is designed by Perth-born architect Kerry Hill. Its website flaunts, “Located on the tranquil eastern coast of Sentosa Island, Sentosa Cove is Singapore’s first and most exclusive marina residential community that offers tropical resort living just minutes from the hustle and bustle of city life in mainland Singapore.”

Property investment speculators claim Singapore is Asia’s new Switzerland– a major financial hub with strict banking secrecy laws– besides it  is increasingly styling itself as an exclusive place to live. Non-Singaporean nationals can purchase properties on a 99-year lease program in the area under strict provisions that the property is owner-occupied and never rented out.

Singapore is the world’s lowest in personal taxes rate with a cap of 20 percent, compared to an atrocious 46.5 percent top tax rate in Australia.

Sentosa Cove to match a luxury lifestyle (Photo: SMH)

Whether facing the majestic South China Sea, the spectacular verdant fairways of the Tanjong golf course, or the calm serenity of the waterways, each generously-portioned land parcel represents a blank canvas upon which to design and build your dream residence.

Come and be among the discerning few to experience the epitome of luxury resort living at Sentosa Cove, Singapore’s most exclusive real estate.

Nathan Tinkler of Whitehaven Coal Ltd has moved to Singapore from Brisbane with wife and family. (Photo: Live Trading News)