Economist argues against Australia joining trade deals that undermine sovereignty

October 31, 2019: A new article by Richard Denniss, chief economist at The Australia Institute, argues against Australia signing free trade agreements that undermine our sovereignty. Denniss calls out the hypocrisy of the Morrison government that has ratcheted up populist rhetoric while signing up to agreements that grant excessive rights to international investors at the expense of the Australian community.

He points to recently signed trade agreements with Indonesia and Hong Kong that include investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions that enable international investors to sue governments for policy decisions that harm their investments. He argues that these deals “give foreign trade dispute tribunals — otherwise known as “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracies” — the power to compel Australian governments to compensate foreign companies that feel aggrieved by decisions of the Australian Parliament.”

Denniss highlights the real-world impact of these provisions, referring to an IDSD case brought against Australia’s plain-packaging legislation for cigarettes (although the case was actually brought by Phillip Morris not British American Tobacco as he states in the article). AFTINET has written extensively about the impacts of this case, which was won by the Australian government but still cost tax payers $12m in legal fees.