A controversial and secretive trade deal being negotiated between Australia and 11 other countries is at an “advanced stage” and is expected to be concluded in the first half of 2015, the government has told The New Daily.
The deal, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), will create freer trading conditions among the 12 participants.
So far the details have remained largely confidential, but critics have speculated the deal will give multinational corporations power to interfere with the public policy of sovereign nations.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has said it will only go ahead with a parliamentary mandate, and will be “guided” by submissions from interested parties.
A spokesperson for DFAT told The New Daily: “TPP negotiations are at an advanced stage and only the most difficult issues remain. Australia is committed to concluding the TPP negotiations in the first half of 2015.
“In accordance with the Government’s treaty-making process, once the TPP text is agreed it will be tabled in Parliament for 20 joint sitting days to facilitate public consultations and scrutiny by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) before any binding treaty action is taken.
“Once tabled, the treaty text and an accompanying National Interest Analysis will be published on the JSCOT website and in the online Australian Treaties Library.
“The Government continues to take all available opportunities to engage with stakeholders and to meet with interested groups. We are always ready to receive written submissions and DFAT’s negotiators talk regularly with stakeholders.
“DFAT has provided over 700 stakeholder briefings since May 2011. Australia’s negotiating positions have been, and continue to be, guided by consultations with a range of stakeholders.”
Harmful effects of the TTP could include stricter enforcement of copyright laws pushing up the price of medicine and making illegal downloading of music and films a criminal offence. It could also allow foreign corporations to sue governments for damages for enacting laws that are in the public interest, such as the cigarette plain packaging law.
The participant nations are: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.