Rush to finish trade deals before election undemocratic

18 April 2016

Trade Envoy Andrew Robb recently stated his intention to complete the secret negotiations on the India FTA in the next six weeks.

However, this could violate the Caretaker Convention, which states that governments should not finalise trade deals in the election period, which is likely to be from May 11 to July 2.

Final negotiations for the PACER-plus trade agreement are also scheduled in June, and ongoing bilateral negotiations around the WTO Government Procurement Agreement are in their final stages.

Concluding a secret trade agreement during the caretaker period would be highly undemocratic. Since the release of the text does not occur until after legal checking, which usually takes a month, the full agreement would not be available until after the election.

This means the Government would be able to publicise the purported benefits of the deal before the election but avoid any public scrutiny of both the benefits and the costs until after the election.

AFTINET has written to both Trade Minister Ciobo and Shadow Trade Minister Wong to ask for assurances that none of these deals will be finalized before the election. You can read these letters and AFTINET’s media release here.