Email Senator Dio Wang from WA

Senator Dio Wang
81 Bennett Street
East Perth, WA, 6004

Dear Senator Wang,

I am concerned about clauses in the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) which expand corporate rights at the expense of human rights.

The KAFTA includes rights for foreign companies to sue governments (ISDS) and other dangers

The KAFTA was signed in April. It is now being reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. Public concern has also prompted a Senate Inquiry. Parliament cannot change the text but can vote for or against the implementing legislation in October.

AFTINET’s detailed submission to these Inquiries gives evidence of the costs and risks of KAFTA. These include Investor-State Dispute Settlement clauses, known as ISDS.  ISDS gives additional special rights to foreign investors to sue governments for damages in an international tribunal if they can claim that domestic legislation has ‘harmed’ their investment.

ISDS means that our local, state and federal governments could be sued over domestic legislation, reducing the ability of governments to legislate democratically in response to community concerns. There are many examples of this. The Philip Morris tobacco company is using ISDS in an obscure Hong Kong investment agreement to sue the Australian government over our plain packaging law, despite the fact that the High Court found they were not entitled to compensation. The US Lone Pine mining company is using ISDS in the North American Free Trade Agreement to sue the Canadian Quebec government for $250 million because it responded to community concerns and conducted an environmental review of shale gas mining. Including ISDS in KAFTA means that Korean mining companies could sue state governments if they introduce new environmental regulation.

The Howard Coalition government did not agree to include ISDS in the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The Productivity Commission found in 2010 that there were no economic benefits from ISDS.

The Trade Minister has claimed that there are “safeguards” in KAFTA to exclude public health and environmental legislation. However these have not been effective in other agreements. The US Renco lead mining company is suing the Peruvian government over regulation of lead pollution, despite the US-Peru FTA including the same “safeguards” as those in KAFTA.

In addition to ISDS, the KAFTA does not include enforceable labour rights or environmental standards.  There are also changes to our copyright laws to give more rights to copyright holders at the expense of consumers and internet service providers.

The KAFTA National Interest Assessment claims that there will be benefits from KAFTA based on a tiny predicted increase of 0.04% of GDP after 15 years in 2030. But this assessment ignores the costs which mean that the KAFTA is not in Australia’s national interest.

We ask you to consider voting against the KAFTA implementing legislation when it comes before Parliament on the basis that the KAFTA is not in Australia’s national interest.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

TPP negotiations between Australia, the United States and 10 other countries aim to conclude in November. Including ISDS in the TPP would be even more dangerous than KAFTA, as US companies are the biggest users of ISDS against health and environmental legislation. The TPP also includes proposals for stronger patents on medicines and changes to our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which would mean higher medicine prices; criminalisation of copyright breaches on the internet and less local content in government procurement and audio-visual media.

I ask that you support community demands for the TPP text to be released for public debate before it is signed, and also be prepared to vote against the TPP implementing legislation when it comes before Parliament if the agreement is not in the national interest.

Kind regards,