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The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Brunei, Trade, and Human Rights
Medium (2015)
  • Matthew Rimmer, Australian National University College of Law
The Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, has said that ‘Australia is Open for Business’. His trade and investment minister, Andrew Robb, has vigorously pursued bilateral trade agreements with neighbours, South Korea, Japan, China, and India — as well as the regional trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Such trade activity raises questions about the relationship between trade policy and human rights. If we are open for business, should we be open for business for countries engaged in human rights abuses? Should enter into trade agreements, which could have an adverse upon human rights? The Trans-Pacific Partnership highlights a range of problems with Australia’s treaty-making process. One important issue is the question of the relationship between trade and human rights. The Trans-Pacific Partnership has a wide range of impacts upon human rights. The intellectual property of the agreement has been seen as a threat to basic civil and political liberties. There has been disquiet about the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership upon the right to health — particularly in respect of drug pricing, access to medicines, and tobacco control. There has been a consideration about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership will impact upon the right to food. There has been disquiet as to whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership will affect the right to a healthy environment. There has been discussion of violations of labor rights, particularly in Vietnam. The Trans-Pacific Partnership also highlights larger issues about the relationship between trade and human rights. Brunei’s repressive criminal laws — particularly in their treatment of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender individuals — have attracted a great deal of alarm and disquiet amongst human rights defenders. Amnesty International has said that Brunei’s new Penal Code will take ‘the country back to the dark ages when it comes to human rights.’ Rupert Abbott, Deputy Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International, said: "Brunei Darussalam’s new Penal Code legalizes cruel and inhuman punishments. It makes a mockery of the country’s international human rights commitments and must be revoked immediately. The new code even permits stoning to death for acts which should not be considered ‘crimes’ in the first place, such as extramarital sexual relations and consensual sex between adults of the same gender." The laws have been criticised by international human rights organizations and the United Nations. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex groups have responded by boycotting businesses owned by the head of state, the Sultan of Brunei. Feminists have also criticised the new regime for discriminating against women. There has also been criticism of Malaysia and its human rights record by Amnesty International. There has been debate in both the Australian Parliament and the United States Congress over the inclusion of Brunei and Malaysia in the Pacific Rim trade talks.
  • TPP,
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership,
  • Brunei,
  • Malaysia,
  • Human Rights
Publication Date
February 24, 2015
Citation Information
Matthew Rimmer. "The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Brunei, Trade, and Human Rights" Medium (2015)
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