Overview

Australia and Hong Kong launched negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement in May 2017. 

Hong Kong already had zero tariffs levels on Australian goods exports, so this agreement was mainly about services, investment and “non-tariff barriers.”Australia already had a bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong (1993), which included investor rights to sue governments (ISDS). This was the treaty that Philip Morris used to sue the Australian Government over the cigarette plain packaging laws.

The agreement was signed in March 2019, and the text revealed that that the agreement contained ISDS with some claimed safeguards for governemtns' right to regulate. The old Hong Kong-Australia bilateral Investment treaty was to be cancelled.

The JSCOT inquiry reported in October 2019. AFTINET advocated against the agreement because it still contained ISDS and deregulation of essential services. There were no provisions to protect labour rights or environmental standards. 

The Labor Opposition policy was opposed to ISDS and Labor and others were also concerned about the violations of human rights of protesters in Hong Kong.

The government bundled together the enabling legislation for the Peru , Hong Kong and Indonesia agreements and after a fierce internal debate, the majority in the Labor caucus agreed to support the enabling legislation.

The  legislation was passed by the Australian Parliament in October 2019 and the agreement has been ratified by both governments.

Read more:

Updated January 2020