With the Gillard government now committed to opposing a central demand of US negotiators in the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, the deal is dead in the water unless the USA agrees to drop its demand for Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions or allows Australia an exclusion provision, the Australian Greens.
On questioning from the Greens in Question Time today, the government made it clear that it "does not support provisions that would confer greater legal rights on foreign businesses than those available to domestic businesses".
"US negotiators have been working hard to get a deal that would allow a foreign company to sue an Australian government because an Australian law reduces their profits or adversely affects their business," Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.
"These Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions are central to the negotiations from the US point of view as big tobacco, big oil, big agribusiness and big pharmaceuticals come back for what they didn't get under the US Australia free trade agreement.
"Now that the Gillard government agrees with the Greens that these provisions are absolutely unacceptable, the question has to be asked - if the talks have reached an impasse on this central issue, is the TPPA now dead in the water?
"President Obama wants this TPPA wrapped up by July, well ahead of the US Presidential election, and wants all remaining negotiations to be held in the US to allow maximum pressure on other countries.
"If Australia sticks to its position to protect the PBS, local content rules, copyright and patent laws, what is it still talking to the US about?
"Rumour has it that the services sector is the most vulnerable, but nobody knows because there is no transparency in the negotiations. While the government is holding forums, the negotiating texts and positions are being kept secret from Australians, whilst the 600 US lobbyists all have them.
"The TPPA is a step in the wrong direction and the government must release details of what it is prepared to trade away."
Audio of Senator Milne's question and Senator Conroy's answer is available at: