ACTU calls for a delay in ratification of trade and investment deals with Hong Kong

August 28, 2019: The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has called on the Government to delay ratification of the recently signed trade and investment agreements with Hong Kong until concerns about human rights abuses against pro-democracy protesters have been resolved.

The Hong Kong agreements were signed in March this year and are currently being reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, with public hearings held in Sydney and Melbourne earlier this week and further hearings scheduled for early September.

ACTU President Michele O’Neil argued that “At a time of growing international uncertainty around trade, it is important that Australia treads cautiously with regard to an agreement with a territory that is experiencing significant political upheaval and instability.”

The ACTU also criticised the potential social impacts of the agreements and O’Neil asserted that “The agreement has serious issues. It restricts the ability of governments to administer essential services like schools, hospitals, water and power in the public interest. And it lets foreign companies sue Australian Governments in offshore trade tribunals for making laws they don’t like.”

These criticisms reflect the concerns identified by AFTINET in our submission to the JSCOT hearing and in the evidence provided by Dr Patricia Ranald at the public hearing on Monday 26 August.

The Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham, has dismissed the ACTU’s call for a delay, stating that it would be “foolish” to delay ratification.

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