Australian opposition calls for TPP text to be made public

Summary:Shadow Trade Minister Penny Wong has called for the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement to be made public before Australia signs onto the agreement.

Labor spokesperson for Trade, Senator Penny Wong, has called on the Coalition government to release the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement before it is signed by Australia, in order to assure that the government isn't signing away the country's rights in areas including copyright.

The TPP agreement is a currently being negotiated between Australia, the US, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore, aimed at simplifying trade between the 12 nations.

The negotiations have been held confidential, and text of the agreement has not been made public. DFAT trade negotiation officials said in Senate Estimates last week that it is standard practice for international agreements to be negotiated in private with the text not made public until the agreement has been finalised.

However, last month,  an August draft  of the text of one of the most controversial and still-outstanding chapters of the agreement, the intellectual property chapter, was leaked by whistleblowing website Wikileaks.

Critics of the TPP agreement have warned that the draft text indicates Australia could be signing up for significant new penalties for users caught sharing copyright-infringing material online, and potentially new obligations for ISPs to enforce copyright for the rights holders.

The draft text that was leaked was said to be from August, back when Labor was still in government in Australia, under the oversight of Richard Marles. ZDNet understands that negotiators haven't been told to change their position on any copyright-related parts of the TPP agreement under the new Coalition Government. However, in an opinion piece published today, Wong has now indicated that Labor has its reservations about the TPP agreement.

"The test for the government in TPP — and all other trade — negotiations is ensuring Australia's national interest is never traded away," she said.

"[It would not] be in the national interest for the government to sign up to the TPP if it mandated a radical shift in the legal balance between creators and users of protected works."

Trade Minister Andrew Robb is currently in Singapore with the trade ministers from other nations currenly part of the negotiations seeking to get the agreement finalised and signed before the end of 2013. Wong called on the full text of the agreement to be released before it is signed by the Australian government.

"There is a national interest in the government providing the transparency that enables Australians to understand what trade agreements mean, what benefits they bring, and what compromises we are being asked to make, and the TPP is no exception," Wong said.

"Labor believes the full text of any proposed TPP should be released well before it is signed. That is the commitment the United States trade representative has given to Congress, and the Australian Parliament and people are entitled to no less."

Although the Labor government would have had access to the draft of the text, and did not release it prior to the election, a spokesperson for Wong told ZDNet that the main concern was what was in the final text, which would be vastly different to what was included in the drafts.

Topics: Government, Australia, Government : AU

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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