Concerns have been raised about the impacts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the fine print of the agreement was released on Thursday.
The deal would eliminate 98 per cent of all tariffs between 12 nations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb welcomed the release of the figures, claiming it is proof the deal will provide benefits for Australians.
“[The release] provides the Australian public with an opportunity to examine the text and more fully understand any areas of the negotiation that are of interest to them,” Mr Robb said in a statement.
“The TPP forms a transformational series of agreements that will contribute substantially to the diversification of our economy.
“This will reduce our reliance on any one sector or any one market, regardless of how strong they are.”
But analysts and activists in each country are sure to pore over the voluminous document, eager to sift through its 30 chapters.
Labor to look at deal ‘very closely’
The Turnbull government will need Labor’s support to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The Federal Government said the full text will be tabled in Parliament for 20 sitting days, with the joint standing committee on treaties to conduct an inquiry into the TPP.
Deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek says they will closely examine the deal when it is tabled in Parliament.
“We’re very keen to make sure that measures like plain packaging — where the Australian Government has legislated for the health and benefit of the Australian people — are protected,” she said.
“We’ll be looking at the Trans-Pacific Partnership very carefully.”
A number of side-letters, outlining negotiations between individual countries on the TPP, are yet to be made public.
Opposition trade spokeswoman Penny Wong said while Labor welcomes the prospect of more jobs and investment, there are flaws in the deal.
“The cost and availability of medicines is a critical issue, and Labor will be scrutinising the text to ensure that Andrew Robb’s guarantee that the TPP will have no impact whatsoever is true,” Senator Wong said.
Health experts say intellectual property protections in the TPP for ground-breaking medicines known as biologics could drive up their cost and make them less accessible.
Labor will also take up concerns about the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions in the agreement, which is to be the subject of an inquiry by the parliament’s treaties committee before it is ratified.
ISDS provisions allow foreign investors to sue governments.
Business groups say they are essential to protect investors from governments making laws and regulations that adversely affect them.
Critics say they undermine democracy and open governments to challenge on a wide range of policies, from environmental protection to health.
‘Leviathan’ of an agreement
Intellectual property law professor at Queensland University of Technology, Matthew Rimmer, has expressed concern about provisions affecting IT, health, environmental law and labour rights.
“It will be very challenging I think for policy makers around the Pacific Rim to digest this epic leviathan of an agreement which is very technical and prescriptive and also complex in terms of its details,” Dr Rimmer said.
Some safeguards have been put in place to protect the plain packaging of cigarettes against legal challenges.
Concerns had been raised that the TPP could have allowed cigarette manufacturers to directly sue Australia over the impact of plain packaging laws introduced in 2013.
Dr Rimmer said the chapter on environmental regulations is also lacking detail.
“It seems to me remarkable that the environmental chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership doesn’t even mention the phrase climate change,” he said.
“It’s kind of like Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, it’s a taboo phrase in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
Newly appointed US house speaker Paul Ryan however said he continues to reserve judgment on the deal.
“Enactment of TPP is going to require the administration to fully explain the benefits of this agreement and what it will mean for American families. I continue to reserve judgment on the path ahead,” he said, adding that he remains hopeful about the pact.
– with AAP, ABC