Free trade deal with UK must be changed before ratification, AFTINET tells parliament

28 March, 2022: In a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT), AFTINET has identified major flaws and called for major changes to the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (A-UKFTA) before ratification.

In our submission, we draw attention to the lack of transparency and democratic accountability in the negotiation process, and we raise the alarm on the deal’s potential impacts on human rights, labour rights and environmental sustainability.

To improve the agreement, we call for major changes to the text of the agreement before the enabling legislation is put to Parliament and the deal is ratified. In our submission, we make thirty recommendations covering transparency and accountability, investment and trade in services, procurement, labour rights and environmental protections, among other issues.

Some of the key recommendations include:

  • Comprehensive independent economic, environmental, health and gender impact assessments should be completed and made public before the enabling legislation and ratification of the A-UKFTA.
  • Australia should ensure that any regional trade deals that may include the UK (for example, the CPTPP) should maintain the A-UKFTA’s exclusion of corporate rights to sue governments (ISDS).
  • The Environment and Labour Chapters should be strengthened to ensure they are just as legally enforceable as other chapters.
  • All commitments on labour rights, modern slavery and gender discrimination should be made hard commitments that are legally enforceable.
  • Increased commitments made on trade in services and government procurement that could undermine government’s ability to regulate in the public interest should be reviewed and removed
  • The entry of temporary workers should be based on the principle that they address genuine labour shortages evidenced by local labour market testing. Therefore, the government should revoke the removal of labour market testing for uncapped numbers of certain types of workers.

To read the full submission, click here.