AFTINET tells public hearing that the EU knows more than Australians about our trade talks, and calls for change

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                 Monday August 24, 2020

“It is disgraceful that Europeans know more than Australians about our trade negotiations because the Australian government refuses to release the text of trade agreements until after they are signed,” AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald said today.

“In the current EU-Australia trade negotiations, we know that the EU is pushing for longer monopolies on medicines for its pharmaceutical companies because the EU has released its negotiating proposals. These proposals could delay the availability of cheaper medicines and cost our public health system hundreds of millions of dollars each year. But we don’t know the Australian government response because Australia does not release its negotiating proposals or responses,” said Dr Ranald.

Dr Ranald will give evidence at 11:40 AM today to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties public hearing for its inquiry on the trade agreement process.

She will present evidence that the current Australian process is secretive and undemocratic, because neither parliament nor the public see trade agreements until after they are signed, and there is no independent evaluation of their costs and benefits.

“Trade deals like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership include rights of foreign corporations to sue governments, the regulation of essential services such as medicines, education, aged care, childcare, energy, financial and digital services, as well as foreign investment, labour and environment regulations, government procurement and product standards. These are all issues that should be debated and voted by parliament. But parliament does not debate or vote on the whole agreement, only on the enabling legislation after it has been signed,” explained Dr Ranald.

“We call for the release of trade agreement texts and independent evaluation of their costs and benefits before they are signed. Parliament should debate and vote on the whole agreement, to ensure public accountability,” said Dr Ranald.