AFTINET welcomes Labor trade policy changes, but calls for clear rejection of unfair deals

October 30, 2017: The Australian Fair Trade network of community organisations welcomes the pledge by Shadow Trade Minister Jason Clare in his speech to ACCI today for the public release and independent economic analysis of trade agreements before they are signed, but there should also be health and environmental impact studies, AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald said today.

AFTINET called for publication of texts and independent economic, health and environmental evaluations of trade agreements before signing in its submissions to the 2015 Senate inquiry which produced a report appropriately called Blind Agreement.

Dr Ranald noted the call for closer consultation with business in bilateral trade negotiations, but called for greater consultation with unions and community organisations. She said, “trade agreements now include clauses on labour rights and migrant workers, medicines, environment and other public interest legislation, which need critical community debate, not only business input.”

“We welcome the pledge to retain labour market testing for availability of local workers, to prevent vulnerable temporary workers from being used as bargaining chips in trade agreements.”

Dr Ranald noted that the speech foreshadowed further policy announcements on trade.

“There should be a clear rejection of other harmful clauses in trade agreements like foreign investor rights to sue governments (ISDS) and stronger medicine and copyright monopolies which benefit global corporations at the expense of ordinary people.”   

“Trade agreements should improve peoples’ lives, not allow corporations to sue governments over public interest laws like tobacco regulation, nor should they make medicines more expensive by extending monopolies and delaying the availability of cheaper medicines.”

“Proposals to include ISDS and medicine and copyright monopolies in current attempts to revive the TPP and negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership should be firmly rejected by the ALP,” said Dr Ranald.

“Even the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said publicly last week that the US wants to opt out of ISDS in NAFTA, because of the risk and costs of US governments being sued by foreign corporations. This further undermines the case for including it in trade agreements.”