AFTINET submission on COVID-19 and trade policy
July 1, 2020: AFTINET's submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is here.
The submission criticises the inflexibility of neoliberal trade rules which have been exposed by the pandemic, like over-reliance on global production chains which suit the needs of global corporations but hinder local industry development policies and reduce the right of governments to regulate in the public interest. It argues for trade policy flexibility to enable governments to act in the public interest in crises like the pandemic and more generally. It makes specific recommendations on:
- the need for trade policy to address the specific needs of developing countries
- local industry development and capacity to produce medical equipment, medicines, renewable energy and infrastructure
- trade policy should not strengthen medicine monopolies and should support affordable access to medicines
- trade policies should not allow global corporations to sue governments over actions taken during the pandemic, or over other public interest measures
- changes needed to rules on trade in services and digital trade
- legally binding commitments on labour rights and environmental standards, including emissions reductions
- a more open and democratically accountable process for trade agreements.