United Kingdom-Australia free Trade Agreement
The initial AFTINET submission is here..
Australia is seeking more market access for its agricultural and services exports. and the danger is that longer medicine monopolies or other negative deregulatory concessions may be traded off to gain these. The UK is also seeking to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP) which is being used as a model by both governments, and includes Investor rights to sue governments (ISDS).. In June 2O21 the two governments announced an agreement in principle and confirmed that ISDS has been excluded. This was a victory for community campaigning.
The full text was not released until after it was signed on December 17, 2021..
AFTINET's initial media release after the text was released called for an independent assessment for the costs and benefits of the economic, environmental, health and gender impacts of the agreement,
AFTINET will analyse the 32 chapters and thousands of pages of the text and make a submission to the review by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties which is expected to be announced early in 2022.
The agenda is dominated by corporate interests and key issues of concern are:
- Pharmaceutical companies may push for longer monopolies for data protection on biologic medicines. This is one of the demands made by the EU negotiations when the UK was part of the EU.The UK may retain the push for the EU standard of 10 years of data protection (Australia has five years).
- Restricting regulation of essential services The trade in services chapter is likely to be modelled on services chapters the CPTPP agreement which open most services to foreign investment and restrict new government regulation of services. For example, it could prevent regulation of energy services in response to climate change or prevent improvements in staffing levels in aged care or childcare. It could also stop governments from regulating to fix privatisation failures, as have occurred in vocational education services and privatise hospitals.
- E-Commerce rules to suit the needs of global digital companies and restrict governments from regulating them. The UK may have less privacy protections than the EU, and may push for lower standards. In the wake of Facebook and other data abuse scandals, we need stronger privacy and other protections for consumers. Some proposed e-commerce rules also reinforce the global dominance of existing digital companies.
- The UK may want greater market access for its global firms to Australian government procurement. When the UK was an EU member, the EU signalled in its conditions for the WTO Government Procurement Agreement that it wants to remove Australian provisions that allow federal and state governments to give preference for government procurement contracts to local SMEs. This Is extremely serious as it is this provision which has enabled state governments to give preference to local steel and other products. The danger is that the Australian government will trade this off for agricultural market access. It is not clear whether the UK will pursue this in the separate agreement.
- Enforceable labour rights and environmental standards. The UK has said it supports clauses on labour rights and environmental standards (including reduced carbon emissions), and other social clauses, but they may not be fully enforceable in the same way as other chapters in the agreement
.Updated January 2022