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(Cairns... Far North Queensland)


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Selwyn Johnston



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What we all should know...

It is only a few years ago that an article was posted here on the Australia American Free Trade Agreement. At that time the substance of that agreement and it's benefit to this country were questioned. Most are still unaware of any significant benefit that has accrued to Australians or Australia as a consequence of that agreement and Australians are once again being confronted with yet another wonderful agreement that again will 'solve' this countries problems. . 

But what we have before us now is a different kettle of fish in the form of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is getting towards the end point of a bipartisan political scam that had its beginnings, as far as the Australian Electorate is concerned, some twenty years in the form of the grossly misnamed Hilmer Inquiry into Competition Policy. Had this inquiry been given a more appropriate name it would have been called The Divestment of Australian Public Assets Policy. But then of course the public would have smelt a rat. 

But being where we are, it seems the TPP is one of a series of proposed international agreements, affecting the whole of the Western World the real purpose of which can only be presumed to lock the Western World into a solid block against other rising and quite frankly dynamic regimes. The other Agreements making this present round are the Transatlantic Trade and Investments Partnership (TTIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). 

All these Agreements have several things in common. Firstly they have been developed in absolute secrecy and it seems those who have had the opportunity of getting a sneak preview of some parts are under severe restrictions as to what can be said, if anything at all. Because of that alone the whole process must be viewed with the utmost suspicion and concern because if these agreements can't stand the light of day it is only natural to be interested in why that is so. What exactly is it that they are trying to hide? 

Another common aspect is that they seem to favour big international business rather than small, medium or even big local businesses. Bear in mind that we can only gather this opinion because of what is leaking out and who seems to be supporting it on the basis of those leaks. These Agreements are totally opaque. And nothing has leaked that would suggest in any way that there was any fetter on the scope or range of the Agreements to take over and dominate individual countries.. 

Then there is the adjudication processes that are included in these Agreements. Again we can only suspect what it is but with some of the agreements at least all disputed have to be heard by an independent international tribunal and the conclusions of this tribunal are binding on all parties despite what the local judicial system might have to say . So it would be pointless for example taking a matter to the High Court of Australia because it is effectively neuted. And that is our independence out the door. While that has already been substantially achieved through the agency of the international financial services industry these new agreements could well be the "Coup de Gras" for the Australian electorate and Nation Australia. 

Going through each of these agreements in so far as we can, it would appear that the TPP could really be described initially as the "anyone but China Agreement". Given that China is Australia's largest trading partner it seems a little incongruous that Australia is lining up to sideline it's major trading partner but that seems to be the case. Again the secrecy surrounding the Agreements does inhibit accurate analysis of the major purpose of the Agreements but it could be concluded quite reasonably that these agreements have more to do with international politics than anyone would care to admit. 

In fact many commentators are now saying that the battleground in politics is not the old Labor- Liberal divide with it's "colour revolution" mentality but rather the fight for the future, indeed for the present is between "democracy "and "corporatocracy". If it gets to the stage where the corporate world is able to control Governments ( ie both Government and Opposition) then the electorates vote is worthless. It once used to be the joke that America had "the best Government that money could buy". Some will claim that that is where Australia is presently heading and there is little evidence to the contrary. 

We spend our time telling our children, and anyone else who will listen, that you never sign a document unless you have read it and understand it. In fact America's great investment guru Warren Buffet has stated that you don't even buy into a company unless you understand it's business. While the concept of the unilateral contract may have watered those principles down to some extent - where you don't have to tick the "I Agree" box -then there is no need to sign without reading. Particularly when you are in the position of trustee and you owe a duty of care. But it seems that is exactly what our politicians have done or are quite eagerly about to do. 

The European version of the TPP is the TTIP - the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Again the same level of secrecy applies and while the regular justification for all these Partnerships is stated as freeing up trade and making goods cheaper no one seems to ask at what cost. For years now individual European States have undertaken major battles with offshore based multinational companies and to a large extent have been successful in both the information technology and chemical fields. People in these countries are now concerned that they could loose that fight completely as the jurisdiction is moved from them to some independent tribunal. 

This seems to be the risk with the TTIP. National barriers will be removed under the proposed system and the existing self protection ability removed. This means, or so some Europeans are saying that it will be the end of their fight against genetically modified organisms, (GMO's), generally that is, and the introduction of marketing practices foreign to the member States to mention just a couple. While dealing with specifics the TPP will almost certainly take out Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. 

So all in all these two agreements it would appear, on the information that is presently available, to offer no benefit whatsoever the peoples of the countries that they touch. Which again raises the question who exactly do they benefit and the great likelihood is that they will only benefit a small group of already very well off individuals, probably as is described in America as the 1%. 

The TISA deal ( The Trade in Services Agreement) the third of this trilogy which deals with trade in services rather than goods is the other side of the coin to the TTIP and the TPP that cover essentially trade and finance. Again with all the secrecy, there should not be a Union Official in Australia or for that matter the average Australian worker who is not absolutely up in arms about this proposed Agreement. 

It has the potential to completely negate migration laws, any bargaining agreement or basic wage fixing and all those good things that Unionists have battled for over the last 100 years will be down the drain with the stroke of the pen. Australian businesses may not benefit from this agreement but rather will become uncompetitive and have to fold. 

We have already seen a toe in the water approach to this concept in the Australia China Free Trade Agreement and that could just be the start. 

These three agreements are not the totality of the international scheme. Already intellectual property rights, patent legislation and copyright have been used as reasons to clamp down on what a few years ago would have been considered to be fair practice. Australia has already become involved here when Kevin Rudd as Foreign Affairs Minister went to Japan to sign the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a little publicised trip to Tokyo given that President Obama also turned up. Remember "Signing" is an initial step to "Ratification" and that can also happen quietly and administratively. 

And there are others such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) to name but a few. One of the most concerning aspects dealing with patents is the extension of time for which patents can run. Presently this time is set at five years in Australia but the push is already on to extend this time substantially and so increase by way of example the costs of monopoly held pharmaceuticals products. We have already seen what is known as the "Greenfielding Process" where the composition of a chemical is marginally modified for the purpose of restarting the patent time period. 

Anyone wishing to challenge these things through our courts will simply not have the cash to do so , that is provided that the courts still have the jurisdiction to hear the matters. These Partnerships Agreements will make government intervention pointless if not the grounds for retribution. 

If we think about inter generational responsibility then these three Partnerships and Agreements, together with the other legislation mentioned throw it all out the door. The legacy that we leave our kids and grand-kids will be an absolute disgrace. Those who oppose them will be at least able to hang their heads in shame and say "I did my best" but it will be cold comfort. 

Should you believe that this scenario is over gloomy then perhaps you should ask your local politician (of any persuasion) to show you these agreements so you can make up your own mind. 

It's unlikely they will be forthcoming as it is understood that one international organisation is currently offering $100,000 US for some pieces of the TPP as yet apparently… without success. 






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Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870