Australia and Hong Kong launched negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement in May 2017.
Hong Kong already has zero tariffs levels on Australian goods exports, so this agreement is mainly about services and “non-tariff barriers.”
Australia already has a bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong (1993), which includes investor rights to sue governments (ISDS). This is the treaty that Philip Morris tried to use to sue the Australian Government over the cigarette plain packaging laws.
AFTINET’s submission advocates for the existing deal with ISDS to be cancelled and for ISDS to not be included in the new agreement.
Other potential concerns include:
- intellectual property: some recent trade agreements have strengthened monopoly rights of pharmaceutical companies to delay cheaper forms of medicines and the rights of copyright holders (mainly global corporations) at the expense of consumers.
- Trade in services: this could include restrictions on the ability of governments to regulate services in the public interest, including essential services like healthcare and education.
- Government procurement: governments should retain some policy flexibility to encourage local industry development and employment.
- Movement of temporary workers: temporary worker arrangements should never be included in trade agreements because this limits the ability of governments to adjust their policies to ensure workers are not exploited.
- Submission to DFAT on Australia-Hong Kong free trade agreement (AFTINET, May 2017)