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Trade deals putting corporates before people and environment

MEDIA RELEASE     

October 10, 2019

Community groups representing millions say trade deals with Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru put corporate rights before people and environment and urge Labor and cross-bench to oppose them

“National organisations representing unions, church, aid and development, environment and public health constituencies have written to Labor and cross-bench MPs asking them to oppose implementing legislation for trade deals with Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong,” AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald said today

The organisations include the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, ActionAid Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Earth Australia and the Public Health Association of Australia.

“The Report of the government-dominated joint Standing Committee on Treaties has predictably recommended in favour of the Indonesia and Hong Kong deals. The government intends to bundle their implementing legislation together with the Peru FTA and rush them through Parliament in one Bill. This gives even less opportunity than usual to scrutinise and debate the merits of each of these three agreements before voting on the legislation,” said Dr Ranald.

“The letters note that the deals include controversial rights for foreign investors to sue governments for millions over domestic laws, known as ISDS, including over environmental and other public interest laws. This is not only contrary to the policies of Labor, Greens and Centre Alliance but also runs counter to international trends away from ISDS,” said Dr Ranald.

“The Australian government recently agreed to exclude ISDS from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership involving China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Indonesia and nine other ASEAN countries. ISDS is excluded from current negotiations for the Australia-EU FTA, and the US and Canada have recently excluded it from the revised version of the North American Free Trade Agreement,” said Dr Ranald

The Indonesia deal also proposes to expand the numbers of temporary workers who are tied to one employer and experience wage theft and other forms of exploitation, and none of the deals have enforceable commitments by governments to implement labour rights and environmental standards,“ said Dr Ranald.

Recent polling shows 75-80% community opposition to the inclusion of ISDS and increased numbers of vulnerable temporary workers in trade agreements. The letter calls on Labor, Greens and Centre alliance to implement their policies and oppose these deals,” said Dr Ranald.

Copies of the letters are attached and below.

Contact Dr Patricia Ranald 0419 695 841

Copies of Letters

To ALP MPs and Senators as addressed

Dear

Please implement the Labor platform and oppose the implementing legislation for trade agreements with Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong.

As you may know, AFTINET is a network of community organisations that has advocated for fair trade through community education and submissions to government for the last 20 years. We support greater transparency and accountability in trade negotiations and trade agreements that are consistent with human rights, labour rights, public health, gender equality and environmental sustainability, and that do not restrict the right of governments to regulate in the public interest.
This is why we welcomed Labor’s 2018 Platform that pledged to oppose, in government and opposition, trade agreements that include foreign investor rights to sue governments (ISDS), increased numbers of vulnerable temporary workers, and trade in services provisions that encourage privatisation and inhibit governments’ right to regulate in the public interest.
The Platform also recognised that for trade agreements to benefit the whole community they must include enforceable internationally-recognised labour rights, be consistent with sustainable development and higher environmental standards and be subject to Independent National Interest Assessments that include comprehensive social, economic and regional impacts.
We welcomed Labor’s 2018 Platform because it’s good for people and the environment. With three trade agreements set to come to a vote in Parliament, we are now asking that you implement these policies. These agreements contain provisions which are contrary to the Labour platform:
Truncated Parliamentary process
We understand that the government, after an unusually short JSCOT combined inquiry into the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership (IACEPA) and the Australia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) is intending to bundle together the implementing legislation for both agreements with the legislation for the Peru-Australia free Trade Agreement (PAFTA).
This shows a complete disregard for democratic process because it means that Parliament will have even less opportunity than usual to scrutinise and debate the merits of each of these three agreements before voting on the legislation. We also note that there has been no Independent economic or other assessments of the negotiated treaty texts.
We note that the PAFTA legislation was postponed after two JSCOT inquiries, the second of which was initiated by Labor. In the second report, Labor members commented critically that PAFTA unnecessarily duplicated the TPP-11, of which Peru is a member, contained ISDS provisions and has not been subject to an independent cost-benefit analysis.
Inclusion of ISDS
All three agreements include ISDS provisions. This not only contradicts Labor policy, but it also runs counter to shifting international trends away from ISDS. The Australian government recently agreed to exclude ISDS from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership involving China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Indonesia and nine other ASEAN countries. ISDS is excluded from current negotiations for the Australia-EU FTA, and the US and Canada have recently excluded it from the revised version of NAFTA. ISDS is no longer acceptable to many of our major trading partners Labor should ensure it is not acceptable in Australia as well.
We also note that the IACEPA has ISDS provisions which have some exclusions for health regulation, (although these do not exclude cases against labour and environmental regulation) and some improved procedural processes. But these exclusions are nullified by the fact that the government, contrary to usual practice, has failed to terminate the 1993 Indonesia-Australia bilateral investment treaty which has no exclusions at all. This means that corporations will simply use the older treaty.
Inclusion of trade in services and temporary worker provisions
All three agreements contain trade in services provisions that contradict Labor’s Platform and encourage privatisation and inhibit governments’ right to regulate and re-regulate public services in the public interest. The Indonesia and Peru FTAs also expand the number of temporary workers vulnerable to exploitation.
No enforceable labour rights and environmental standards
Neither the Hong Kong nor Indonesian agreements contain any chapters on enforceable labour rights or environmental standards. The Peru agreement chapters on labour and environment are aspirational and not in any way legally enforceable through state-to state mechanisms in the same way as other chapters in the agreement.
Below is a table that compares the three agreements with the key clauses in the Labor Platform.


Labor PlatformPeru FTAIACEPAHong Kong FTA
No ISDS (clause 109.2)Includes ISDSIncludes ISDS and fails to cancel old ISDS agreementIncludes ISDS
No increase in numbers of temporary workers (clauses 109.1 and 126-7)Includes increased numbers of temporary workersIncludes increased numbers of temporary workers 
No restrictions on regulation of public services (clause 129)Includes restrictions on regulation of public servicesIncludes restrictions on regulation of public servicesIncludes restrictions on regulation of public services
Enforceable labour rights (clause 109.10)Aspirational, not enforceableNoneNone
Environmental standards (clause 141)Aspirational, not enforceable None none
Independent assessment of costs and benefits (clause 115) No No No

This table demonstrates that these agreements are not consistent with Labor’s platform in key areas of policy.
We are asking you to implement Labor policy and vote against the implementing legislation for these agreements. This letter is endorsed by the national bodies representing, unions, church, aid and development, public health and environment organisations listed below.


Dr Patricia Ranald
Convenor, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network


Attachment 1. Endorsing organisations

1.      Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
2.      Australian Council of Trade Unions
3.      ActionAid Australia
4.      Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
5.      Australian Conservation Foundation
6.      Friends of the Earth Australia
7.      Public Health Association of Australia.
To Greens MPs and Senators as addressed

Dear

Please implement your policies and vote against implementing legislation for Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong trade agreements

As you know, AFTINET is a network of community organisations that has advocated for fair trade through community education and submissions to government for the last 20 years. We support greater transparency and accountability in trade negotiations and trade agreements that are consistent with human rights, labour rights, public health, gender equality and environmental sustainability, and that do not restrict the right of governments to regulate in the public interest.
We are writing to ask you to vote against the implementing legislation for the Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong trade agreements. We welcomed the Greens dissenting reports from the JSCOT inquiries for these agreements and we thank you for your ongoing support for a trade system that puts people and the environment ahead of corporate profit. These agreements include provisions that contradict Greens trade policies, including:
Truncated parliamentary process
There have been significant shortfalls in the negotiation and parliamentary processes for these agreements. We understand that the government, after an unusually short JSCOT combined inquiry into the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership (IACEPA) and the Australia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) is intending to bundle together the implementing legislation for both agreements with the legislation for the Peru-Australia free Trade Agreement (PAFTA).
This shows a complete disregard for democratic process because it means that Parliament will have even less opportunity than usual to scrutinise and debate the merits of each of these three agreements before voting on the legislation. We also note that there has been no Independent economic or other assessments of the negotiated treaty texts.
Inclusion of ISDS
All three agreements include ISDS provisions. This not only contradicts Greens policy, but it also runs counter to shifting international trends away from ISDS. The Australian government recently agreed to exclude ISDS from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership involving China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Indonesia and nine other ASEAN countries. ISDS is excluded from current negotiations for the Australia-EU FTA, and the US and Canada have recently excluded it from the revised version of NAFTA. ISDS is no longer acceptable to many of our major trading partners. The Greens should ensure it is not acceptable in Australia as well.
We also note that the IACEPA has ISDS provisions which have some exclusions for health regulation, (although these do not exclude cases against labour and environmental regulation) and some improved procedural processes. But these exclusions are nullified by the fact that the government, contrary to usual practice, has failed to terminate the 1993 Indonesia-Australia bilateral investment treaty which has no exclusions at all. This means that corporations will simply use the older treaty.

Inclusion of trade in services and temporary worker provisions
All three agreements contain trade in services provisions that contradict Greens policy by encouraging privatisation and inhibiting governments’ right to regulate and re-regulate public services in the public interest. The Indonesia and Peru FTAs also expand the number of temporary workers vulnerable to exploitation.

No enforceable labour rights and environmental standards
Neither the Hong Kong nor Indonesian agreements contain any chapters on enforceable labour rights or environmental standards. The Peru agreement chapters on labour and environment are aspirational and not in any way legally enforceable through state-to state mechanisms in the same way as other chapters in the agreement.
We ask that you continue to stand up for a trade system that supports people and the environment by voting against the implementing legislation for the Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong trade agreements. This letter is endorsed by the national bodies representing, unions, church, aid and development, public health and environment organisations listed below.


Dr Patricia Ranald
Convenor, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network

Endorsing organisations

.Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
Australian Council of Trade Unions
ActionAid Australia
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Australian Conservation Foundation
Friends of the Earth Australia
Public Health Association of Australia.

To Centre Alliance MPs as addressed

Dear

Please implement your policy and vote against implementing legislation for Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong trade agreements

As you know, AFTINET is a network of community organisations that has advocated for fair trade through community education and submissions to government for the last 20 years. We support greater transparency and accountability in trade negotiations and trade agreements that are consistent with human rights, labour rights, public health, gender equality and environmental sustainability, and that do not restrict the right of governments to regulate in the public interest.
We are writing to ask you to vote against the implementing legislation for the Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong trade agreements. We thank you for your ongoing support for fair trade agreements that have benefits across the Australian community and for your opposition to some of the most damaging trade provisions, including include foreign investor rights to sue governments (ISDS), increased numbers of vulnerable temporary workers, and trade in services provisions that encourage privatisation and inhibit governments’ right to regulate in the public interest.
There have been significant shortcomings in the negotiation and parliamentary processes for the Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong trade agreements and the agreements include many provisions that contradict Centre Alliance policies, including:
Truncated Parliamentary process
We understand that the government, after an unusually short JSCOT combined inquiry into the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership (IACEPA) and the Australia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) is intending to bundle together the implementing legislation for both agreements with the legislation for the Peru-Australia free Trade Agreement (PAFTA).
This shows a complete disregard for democratic process because it means that Parliament will have even less opportunity than usual to scrutinise and debate the merits of each of these three agreements before voting on the legislation. We also note that there has been no Independent economic or other assessments of the negotiated treaty texts.
Inclusion of ISDS
All three agreements include ISDS provisions. This not only contradicts Centre Alliance policy, but it also runs counter to shifting international trends away from ISDS. The Australian government recently agreed to exclude ISDS from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership involving China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Indonesia and nine other ASEAN countries. ISDS is excluded from current negotiations for the Australia-EU FTA, and the US and Canada have recently excluded it from the revised version of NAFTA. ISDS is no longer acceptable to many of our major trading partners. The Centre Alliance should ensure it is not acceptable in Australia as well.
We also note that the IACEPA has ISDS provisions which have some exclusions for health regulation, (although these do not exclude cases against labour and environmental regulation) and some improved procedural processes. But these exclusions are nullified by the fact that the government, contrary to usual practice, has failed to terminate the 1993 Indonesia-Australia bilateral investment treaty which has no exclusions at all. This means that corporations will simply use the older treaty.
Inclusion of trade in services and temporary worker provisions
All three agreements contain trade in services provisions that contradict Centre Alliance policy by encouraging privatisation and inhibiting governments’ right to regulate and re-regulate public services in the public interest. The Indonesia and Peru FTAs also expand the number of temporary workers vulnerable to exploitation.
No enforceable labour rights and environmental standards
Neither the Hong Kong nor Indonesian agreements contain any chapters on enforceable labour rights or environmental standards. The Peru agreement chapters on labour and environment are aspirational and not in any way legally enforceable through state-to state mechanisms in the same way as other chapters in the agreement.
We ask that you continue to stand up for a trade system that supports people and the environment by voting against the implementing legislation for the Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong trade agreements. This letter is endorsed by the national bodies representing, unions, church, aid and development, public health and environment organisations listed below.


Dr Patricia Ranald
Convenor, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network

Endorsing organisations

Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
Australian Council of Trade Unions
ActionAid Australia
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Australian Conservation Foundation
Friends of the Earth Australia
Public Health Association of Australia.

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