Trans-Pacific Partnership Deal a major threat to Australia

MOST Australians don't know that a major trade deal under negotiation could let foreign companies sue Australian governments if deals go bad, a survey has revealed.

The Australia Institute survey of more than 1400 people found just 11% of respondents even knew about the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.

A host of major trade partners are currently negotiating the deal, including Australia, Japan, Canada, Malaysia and the US, which should open more doors to international trade.

Should foreign companies be able to sue our Government if a private business deal falls through?

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This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

But the terms of any deal may yet include "investor-state dispute settlement provisions" (ISDS), essentially giving foreign companies the ability to sue Australian government in some circumstances.

Institute executive director Richard Denniss said the deal raised questions like whether future governments will be able to place more stringent environmental rules on overseas-owned mines or gas operations, "if they are likely to end up in a long and costly case".

"The Philip Morris tobacco company is currently using ISDS in an obscure Hong Kong Australia Investment Agreement to sue the Australian government over our plain packaging legislation,' he said.

"This is an attempt to override legislation passed with bipartisan support by our Parliament, and after the tobacco companies lost their claim for compensation in the Australian High Court."

The survey found just 12% of respondents was aware of the ISDS provisions, and nearly 85% thought they were "a bad idea".

It also found some 87% of respondents thought free trade deals should be made public before they were signed by the government.

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