Turnbull government fails transparency test on proposed EU FTA negotiations

June 27, 2018: On Monday, the European Union published its “Negotiating Directives” for its proposed free trade agreement with Australia, but the Australian government hasn’t matched this level of transparency by publishing its own objectives.

The Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network has already requested in its submissions on the EU FTA that the Turnbull government release its own negotiating objectives, and release negotiating texts, and will continue to pursue the government to do so.

Following European Court of Justice decisions that ISDS is incompatible with national sovereignty and EU law, the EU Negotiating Directives do not include ISDS. The EU Trade Commissioner confirmed this in a media conference in Canberra on June 18.

But the EU Trade Commissioner in the same media conference also disclosed that the EU may be seeking stronger monopolies for data protection on biologic medicines of up to 10 years, compared with five years under Australia’s current law.  Pharmaceutical companies already have 20 years monopoly on these costly new medicines, plus five years data protection in Australia. Extending data protection to 10 years would delay the availability of cheaper forms of these medicines, costing the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme hundreds of millions of dollars per year. We need a clear statement from the Australian government about its negotiating objectives, and whether it will resist such demands.

The EU also wants other forms of stronger intellectual property rights, broader access to government procurement, and broader access to services.