AFTINET submission: the EU-Australia FTA framework agreement

May 3, 2018: AFTINET's full submission on the EU-Australia FTA framework agreement is now available here

This framework agreement is not a legally binding trade agreement, but is a framework required as a legally binding instrument by the EU in order to assess whether potential trade agreement partners share EU values, before commencing formal free trade agreement negotiations. It deals with a wide range of issues in addition to trade agreements. The JSCOT inquiry submissions closed on April 20 and the committee is due to report on August 22.

The committee will make a recommendation about the framework agreement but, since it requires no legislation, Parliament will not vote on it, which reinforces our comments below about the undemocratic nature of the trade agreement process.

AFTINET welcomes many of the commitments in the framework agreement that commit the parties to implement democratic principles, human rights, and inclusive and sustainable growth for human development.

Our submission is focused on Title IV, Cooperation on Economic and Trade Matters, and sets out principles which should guide the parties if negotiations commence for an EU-Australia free trade agreement.

  • Prior to commencing negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement, the Government should table in Parliament a document setting out its priorities and objectives, and an assessment of the expected economic, social and environmental and health impacts
  • There should be regular public consultation during negotiations, and the Australian government should follow the EU example and release its proposals during negotiations.
  • Draft texts should be released for public discussion.
  • The final text should be released for public and parliamentary discussion before it is authorised for signing by Cabinet.
  • The current National Impact Analysis (NIA) process is inadequate. After the text is completed but before it is signed, comprehensive independent studies of the likely economic, social and environmental impacts of the agreement should be undertaken and made public for debate by parliamentary committees.
  • Parliament should vote on the whole text of the agreement, not just the implementing legislation.
  • Investor-State Dispute Settlement should not be included in the Australia-EU free trade agreement.
  • There should be no extension of monopolies on patents, data protection or copyright in the Australia-EU free trade agreement.
  • The agreement should use a positive list to identify which services will be included in an Agreement.
  • Public services should be clearly and unambiguously excluded, and there should be no restrictions on the right of governments to provide and regulate services in the public interest.
  • Government should retain the right to regulate all services to meet service standards, health, environmental or other public interest objectives.
  • The agreement should require the adoption and implementation of agreed international standards on labour rights, enforced through the government-to-government dispute processes contained in the agreement.
  • The agreement should require the adoption and implementation of applicable international environmental standards, including those contained within UN environmental agreements, enforced through the government-to-government dispute processes contained in the agreement.
  • Australia should make no commitments for the extension of temporary movement of workers other than senior executives and managers in the Australia-EU free trade agreement.
  • The Australian government should not enter into any commitments on government procurement that undermine its ability, or the ability of state governments, to support local Australian businesses.