JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Leaked memo reveals 'weakness' in Trans-Pacific Partnership delegation's trade stance

Trade Minister Andrew Robb: Leading the Australian delegation portrayed by the memo as resisting US attempts to increase ...

Trade Minister Andrew Robb: Leading the Australian delegation portrayed by the memo as resisting US attempts to increase the influence of drug companies. Photo: Angela Wylie

Australia is in the box seat to crack the US sugar market, leaked trade documents show. But in return it may have to allow US companies to sue Australian governments, a concession until now it has not been willing to make.

The leaked documents, published by The Huffington Post and WikiLeaks, are a memo and spreadsheet prepared by negotiators from one of the 12 nations attempting to reach agreement on a so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership encompassing Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The memo portrays the Australian delegation, led by Trade Minister Andrew Robb, as resisting attempts by the US to increase the influence of drug manufacturers over Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Australia is not prepared ''to go beyond'' the conditions it has already agreed to in its free trade agreement with the United States, it says.

But Australia has begun working behind the scenes with the US and Japan to reintroduce rejected clauses that would give US drug companies greater influence over the decisions of other nations.

''The Australian position is unclear and begins to show some weakness,'' the memo says.

The leaked document, prepared after the first day of the five-day ministerial talks in Singapore, says the US is exerting ''great pressure, which will increase with each passing day''.

One of the US techniques is to set up smaller groups of nations that formulate agreed positions known as ''landing zones'' that tend to show ''a solution coming from the US position''.

A draft intellectual property chapter published by WikiLeaks and Fairfax Media last month detailed US proposals to make the citizens of other nations pay more for movies and software and be placed under surveillance as part of a crackdown on internet piracy. On many of those questions Australia had sided with the United States, and was sometimes the only nation to have done so.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has refused a request from the Australian Senate to see the text of the agreement before it is signed.

Each of the negotiating nations is obliged to keep the text secret. The leaked memo has been edited to disguise its origin.

Under Labor, the Australian government flatly refused to sign any agreement that bound it with Investor State Dispute Settlement procedures under which aggrieved foreign companies could bypass Australian courts to sue Australian governments internationally.

But Australia's minister Andrew Robb has indicated he is prepared to consider such procedures in return for ''substantial market access''. The memo says the US is withholding its final offers on market access in order to “address certain sensitivities''

''That would be the way to grant access to Australian sugar,'' it says.


  • The government should come clean and reveal the contents of the agreement. This agreement is of immense importance to the Australian people for what I undersatnd is the next 30 years. We should not be locked into such a long term agreement unless it has bilateral political support. Surely all sides of the political landscape should put forward their points of view and should be debated in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

    Date and time
    December 10, 2013, 7:08AM
    • Typical conservative tactics. No doubt they are selling the freedoms of individual Australians to give more wealth to the already wealthy. The fact that everything is completely hidden from scrutiny should have people up in arms, but being the apathetic consumers of the Murdochracy, we will cop it without even so much as a raised eyelid. Wake up Australia!

      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 9:48AM
    • If we've already got a FTA with the USA then why do we need to sign this TPP? Unless, of course, the FTA with the USA was flawed to begin with. Luckily we only have about 8 more years to wait for full access so why not wait? It's not that long and we don't have to give away any more concessions to the USA and still get to keep some things cheaper. As a bonus the pharmaceutical companies won't be able to gouge us or take advantage of the PBS. Unfortunately we haven't he same rank amateurs in power now that were in power for the fat with the USA so things don't look so good for us.

      John Michaels
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 11:00AM
    • They can't come clean because they haven't been told everything they will sign up to by the other governments. This do whatever it takes to get a short term headline regardless of the long term implications is what trainee tony has said and is doing. They really do not stand for anything and are prepared to give away anything in order to get a headline.

      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 2:28PM
  • It is terrifying to think that this short sighted government of ours whose members believe that it is more important that businesses can make profits than to ensure the total well-being of all Australian citizens is about to make a most disastrous decision. And what is worse is that the decision will be made in secret and we will never be told what the reasoning was for making it! The secrecy should be sufficient to make us all very, very suspicious!

    Australia is already suffering because governments allowed American International corporations too much power over us all. Time for that to stop NOW!

    Date and time
    December 10, 2013, 7:11AM
    • lets open Pandoras box why don't we
      To allow international conglomerates to sue a sovereign country all because they democratically passed legislation that stops said company from making a bit more money is complete lunacy
      especially when you are talking about Phillip Morris who wants compensation in international courts over Plain packaging
      It will take only seconds from when this is signed for the lawyers to start filing petitions
      then watch as Merck and the other pharmaceutical company start legal action over generic drug lines
      The loss of our sovereignty as a nation for the money to be made doesn't even come close to make worth entertaining.
      Our democracy would be destroyed as legislation would then be weighted against who was going to sue Australia, if we brought in certain legislation, not if the legislation was good for Australia

      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 7:41AM
      • This suing the government business intrigues me. Let's say for a second that it is possible, and some judicial/arbitral body finds against the government. It's an unenforceable debt. Even the High Court of Australia can't enforce any judgment be paid. Why not? Because any payment of money needs to be auhorised by an Act of the Parliament (i.e. Appropriation)...

        Date and time
        December 10, 2013, 12:57PM
      • @lex

        I think it's an international court which does the case but am unsure also.

        Another good reason not to hasten in signing.

        Date and time
        December 10, 2013, 1:32PM
      • If the government fails to cough up, then we'd be open to trade sanctions.

        Mr Teufel
        Date and time
        December 10, 2013, 1:48PM
      • Unless they sue the corporation of Australia which is an enforceable debt. Or any of the governments corporatised departments. That then becomes a law suit under statute law. So if the debt isn't paid but he government then the winning party can have Australia's credit rating downgraded. In such a scenario it's possible that Australia could be reduced to junk status much like what happened to QANTAS the other day. They could even put an injunction in place to prevent the lending of money to the government through the reserve bank until all debt is paid. I'm pretty sure the corporate government would quickly pass an act of parliament to pay out the debt in order to continue the business of the day. The worse thing is it will force all politicians to become lawmakers which will exclude all but trained lawyers from being able to become politicians and once this happens society will become an inextricable mess anyway. Just look at the USA or Taiwan or the UK or Europe. There's already an overrepresentation of lawyers and those that went to law school in politics in this country.

        John Michaels
        Date and time
        December 10, 2013, 1:54PM

    More comments

    Comments are now closed

    HuffPost Australia

    Follow Us

    Featured advertisers

    Special offers

    Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo