Tuesday 8 December 2015


The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement between Australia and another 11 countries around the Pacific, has been negotiated over a period of five years. It is significant because the countries involved collectively represent over 40 per cent of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The text of this agreement was recently released.  After years of speculation Australians now have the opportunity to see details of what the federal Government has declared will bring enormous benefits to the country.

The chapter on the environment is a matter of concern to community members who see the long-term necessity for strong environmental protection.

Matthew Rimmer, Professor in Intellectual Property and Innovation Law at Queensland University of Technology has pointed out some weaknesses.

“The agreement has poor coverage of environmental issues, and weak enforcement mechanisms.  There is only limited coverage of biodiversity, conservation, marine capture fisheries, and trade in environmental services.  The final text of the chapter does not even mention ‘climate change’ – the most pressing global environmental pressure in the world.”

Australia’s Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, dismissed concerns about the treaty not addressing climate change claiming that as a trade agreement it did not need to address climate change.

Trade agreements deal with economic matters.  Climate change is an economic issue because to reduce its impact we need to move to a low carbon economy which obviously presents enormous economic challenges – and opportunities.  Failure to see the need to include climate change suggests an ostrich-type head in the sand mentality.

Another concern is the controversial clause giving foreign companies the right to sue Australian governments which introduce laws they claim have harmed their investments. We have already seen this clause in use in another trade agreement with a cigarette company suing Australia over its plain packaging laws.

Minister Robb has claimed that he has negotiated safeguards on this.  However, Dr Patricia Ranald from the Australia Fair Trade and Investment Network said, “The general ‘safeguards’ in the text are similar to those in other recent agreements which have not prevented cases against health and environmental laws.”

There are serious environmental concerns about the TPP.

-          Leonie Blain

This post was published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column of The Daily Examiner on November 16, 2015.