AFTINET submission to the India - Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement

January 25, 2023: The India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (AI-CECA) negotiations are due to begin in late January 2023 and are expected to finish by June. The interim agreement, which was negotiated by the previous government, mainly dealt with trade in goods and services, and movement of temporary workers. The comprehensive negotiations will deal with issues like labour rights, environmental standards, digital trade, intellectual property and government procurement.

The AFTINET submission is here

Our submission advocates for review of some provisions in the interim agreement to ensure that government retains the right to increase regulation in essential services like aged care, and that provisions on temporary workers are consistent with government policies on skill development and permanent migration.

The submission notes that India has recently adopted legislation that reduces labour rights and discriminates against Muslims, and that there are other documented violations of human rights. The government should seek India’s commitment to a program to address these issues.

We advocate that both governments should commit to enforceable labour rights and environmental standards based on ILO and UN agreements.

We also advocate that any commitments on digital trade data flows should not prevent governments from regulating to protect privacy and other human rights in a rapidly changing digital environment.

Commitments on government procurement should be consistent with government policy for local industry development and retain existing exceptions for small and medium enterprises, indigenous enterprises and local government.

The submission also sets some red lines for exclusions from the negotiations. There should be no corporate rights to sue governments over changes in government policy, known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). We also advocate strongly against any extension of monopolies on medicines, which would delay the availability of cheaper medicines. This is particularly important given India’s role as the world’s largest producer of affordable generic medicines desperately needed in low-income countries.