Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership

Negotiations for the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership (IACEPA) began in 2016 and the agreement was signed on March 4, 2019. Major issues include ISDS (rights for foreign corporations to sue governments) and increased numbers of temporary migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation. The enabling legislation for the agreement was passed by the Parliament in October 2019 and the agreement has been ratified by Australia. As of January 2020, the Indonesian Parliament was still considering ratification.

ISDS was a major point of contention in the agreement. The Australian government claimed that the version of ISDS in the agreement contained more safeguards for the rights of governments to regulate than older versions of ISDS. But it did not mention when the text was published that it had failed to follow its previous practice for new trade agreements and had not cancelled the 1993 Bilateral investment Treaty with Indonesia which had no safeguards at all. This rendered useless the claimed safeguards in the new agreement, since corporations could simply use ISDS in the old agreement to sue governments. 

Labor, the Greens and the Centre Alliance had policies against ISDS and could have blocked the enabling legislation in the Senate.

However, after a fierce internal debate, the majority in the Labor caucus decided to pass the legislation subject to several conditions,  including that the government would cancel the old bilateral agreement.

Negotiations with Indonesia to cancel the old agreement were still underway as of January 2020.

See our submission to the  August 2019 JSCOT inquiry here Dr Patricia Ranald's explainer published in The Conversation and a joint statement on ISDS from AFTINET and Indonesia for Global Justice.