Trans-pacific trade agreement hurts consumers

11 Jun 2013

More transparency and stronger protection for consumers is what consumer organisations are calling for in the next round of negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is a trade agreement which will undergo its 18th round of negotiations next month in Malaysia. The agreement involves 12 countries in the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region.

Twenty-five CI Members have issued a statement expressing serious concern about the consequences for consumers of the agreement in its current form, including:

  • Intellectual property: Raises intellectual property protections above existing World Trade Organization rules. This could mean less competition and higher prices for consumers while the extension of copyright may mean important cultural works remain in private hands for much longer periods of time.
  • E-commerce: Lowers privacy standards for e-commerce transactions. The TPP rules could mean that consumers making transactions where there are strong privacy laws will still have their data compromised because it is stored on servers in countries like the United States where such protections are far less.With the recent leaks about US Government surveillance activities, this is even more important.
  • Food: Restricts domestic regulations of genetically modified foods, pesticides and additives. International rules is already hindering countries who want to ban products which they consider unsafe. For example, under WTO rules, the European communities were punished for prohibiting imports of beef from cows laced with hormones, because the health risks of the use of artificial hormones on cattle had not been scientifically established.
  • Dispute settlement: Allows corporations to sue governments in international commercial court. For example, the tobacco giant Philip Morris is currently suing Australia under a similar free trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong, over Australia's introduction of a law requiring plain packaging of cigarettes.

Consumer organisations have been denied access to the texts of the agreement, therefore, CI and participating Member organisations are asking governments to make the process transparent and to involve consumer organisations as it is consumers who will be most affected by the outcomes of the TPP.

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