Joint Statement Against Japan/Australia FTA (2008)

Australia-Japan Free Trade Agreement- A bad deal should be stopped
Joint Statement from Australian and Japanese people

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We,
the undersigned people and organisations, believe that the Australia
Japan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will not bring real benefits to the
people of Australia and Japan.

A joint government Feasibility
Study claimed that an FTA would deliver benefits to both countries, but
was based on unrealistic assumptions and poor economic modelling. The
Feasibility Study also failed to consider potential social and
environmental impacts, and how these could affect workers, farmers and
communities.

Given that Australia and Japan already have a
strong trading relationship; the predicted economic benefits are
unlikely; and that social and environmental costs have not been
considered, we believe that the negotiations of this FTA should not
take place. Instead, we believe there is a need to rethink multilateral
trade rules and develop a global trading system based on real
development, fairness, democracy, and sustainability.

Agriculture

We
are concerned about agricultural issues in the agreement. Japanese
farmers in particular will be heavily affected by ‘full liberalisation'
of agriculture. The livelihood of small farmers in Japan would be
severely threatened by lower cost imports. In Australia there has
already been a significant decrease in small family farms as a result
of global competition and structural adjustments.

Trade
agreements should not undermine farmers' livelihoods. Instead, a global
agricultural system should be based on food sovereignty, rural
development and protecting farmers' livelihoods. Consumers in both
countries also seriously concerned that the large numbers of FTAs being
negotiated could lead to pressure to reduce food safety standards and
could in the future promote the global distribution of Genetically
Modified (GM) crops.

Environment and Global Warming

We
are concerned that the Feasibility Study did not make reference to UN
Multilateral Environmental Agreements. Any proposed agreement between
Australia and Japan should thoroughly examine environmental issues and
include legally binding commitments by Australia and Japan to ensure
compliance with international environmental standards.

Of
further concern is the Study's conclusion that an FTA should include a
minerals and energy chapter to ensure ‘energy security'. It is
difficult to understand why a trade agreement is needed to address
issues of supply security when this is dealt with by supply contracts
between companies.

The Australian government provides no
assistance to the coal industry in the form of subsidies or export
controls, and Japan maintains a generally open trade policy on minerals
and energy, therefore an FTA will not impact on trade in energy and
resources.

The coal industry is being encouraged to expand at
a multi billion dollar rate, leading to devastating global warming and
environmental consequences. Nuclear energy is also being promoted
despite the unresolved problems of risks of accidents, waste disposal
and increased spread of nuclear weapons. The focus should instead be on
investing in alternative renewable energy, including provisions to
mitigate impacts of trade on global warming.

Essential Services

Essential
services, such as health, water and education, should be excluded from
the FTA. Both governments should maintain the right to regulate
essential services to ensure equitable access for all, and to meet
social and environmental goals.

Of particular concern is the
‘GATS plus' commitment outlined in the Feasibility Study. Australia and
Japan are already making commitments on services under the WTO General
Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and to make commitments beyond
this is very alarming as it suggests both governments are not
prioritising protecting services for the national interest, but rather
advocating that they be open to transnational service providers on a
profit driven basis.

Public services should be clearly excluded from trade agreements.

Human rights and Labour rights

We
are concerned that the Feasibility Study did not include an analysis of
the current state of compliance by both Australia and Japan with human
rights and labour standards, including the International Labour
Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at
Work.

Any proposed agreement between Australia and Japan
should thoroughly examine these issues and include legally binding
commitments by Australia and Japan to ensure compliance with human
rights and labour standards by investors, including effective
monitoring mechanisms and penalties for non-compliance.

Public consultation and debate

We
are concerned about the effectiveness and the transparency of the
public consultation process employed in the Joint Feasibility Study.

Both
governments should commit to effective and transparent community
consultation about proposed trade agreements, with sufficient time
frames to allow informed public debate about potential impacts on life,
work and the environment.

It is important that there is a
clear set of principles and objectives that guide both governments in
the consultation processes for the FTA, and include regular
consultations with unions, farmers, community organisations and the
public.

We oppose the Australia- Japan FTA, and the
proliferation of bilateral trade agreements around the world that will
only result in unequal agreements that will not deliver benefits to the
majority of people.

We believe that multilateral trade rules
must be redeveloped towards an inclusive, democratic global trade
system that delivers real economic development, and allows governments
to retain their right to regulate in the public interest.

Signed:

Australia
AFTINET (Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network)

The Environment Centre of the Northern Territory Inc

The Edmund Rice Centre

Teresa Daly, Sisters of Mercy, West Perth

David Carey , Joint Federal Secretary, Community and Public Sector Union -State Public Services Federation

Search Foundation

Philippines Australian Union Link

The Grail in Australia Global Justice Network

Stop MAI WA, Secretary Mary Jenkins

Global Trade Watch

Carolyn Allen, (individual member)

Rick Bricknell (individual)

J Price 'The Junction' Toogong (individual, farmer)

George Sanders 2/3 Wirilda Drive, Burnie 7320 (individual)

Japan:

TBC