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Trans Pacific larceny

By Jonathan J. Ariel - posted Monday, 30 December 2013

The one thing many Australians don't want to find under their Christmas trees tomorrow is news that the super secret Trans Pacific Partnership has edged closer to being inked.

The haste with which successive Australian governments have expended resources allegedly to negotiate – but perhaps merely to roll over and accept - the Obama imposed TPP, while keeping the electorate in the dark about just what's in the treaty, makes one wonder whose interests are being served? And frankly all we can do is wonder, given the draft has been kept away from the prying eyes of voters.

One of the world's most important trade deals you've never heard of is being negotiated between 12 Pacific Rim countries, including Australia. But you wouldn't know it, from all the attention it's not been getting.


The most recent round of talks took place in Singapore between 7 and 10 December, and was met in Australia with some minor news reporting. So why is the Abbott government now (and previously the Rudd/Gillard two-step) doing everything it can to keep the Trans Pacific Partnerships details a secret? After all, isn't this agreement all about aggressively expanding trade and creating jobs?

Answering the questions: just whose trade will grow and at what cost together with whose jobless numbers will fall may be the reasons for the cone of silence.

Last Friday, the Huffington Post in a roundabout way asked what good signing the TPP would do for Canada, and it came up short. Very short.

Opponents of the TPP, it is claimed, maintain that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is keeping mum because he fears it will be controversial among Canadians. Everything from the rules surrounding internet downloads, to supply chains in some foodstuffs, to what you can photocopy copy legally will be affected.

But legal expert Michael Geist confirmed that documents he secured under Canada's Access to Information Act, showed Ottawa was "overwhelmed with negative comments urging officials to resist entry into the TPP" particularly with respect to intellectual property.

Australians are much like Canadians in this case. Both are treated with disdain by their governments and both peoples don't know how much they don't know about the TPP. Some of the worries Canada has could be a prelude to the nasties that we'll find in the TPP, after it has been concluded. No doubt, both electorates will be subjected to a crass dog and pony show before too long, by politicians doing Corporate America (and for that matter, Corporate Australia's and Corporate Canada's) bidding.


Amongst the HuffPo's concerns about the TPP are:

* Whether it could criminalize at home downloading, as the TPP could force Canada to institute criminal penalties even for small-time downloaders, according to a number of consumer advocacy groups.

Canada's top negotiator at the talks last (northern) autumn refused to say whether Canada would fight for its new copyright laws in the TPP deal.

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About the Author

Jonathan J. Ariel is an economist and financial analyst. He holds a MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management. He can be contacted at

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