Urgent letter to the Trade Minister re: concerns at investor rights to sue governments in the Japan-Australia FTA

The Hon. Andrew Robb AO MP
Minister for Trade
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Minister,

I am concerned about the possible inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the Japan-Australia Free Trade Agreement, as occurred in the recent Korea-Australia FTA.

ISDS allows foreign investors to sue federal, state and local governments for hundreds of millions of dollars in international tribunals, over claims that domestic laws and policies harm their investment. There have been many cases of governments being sued over health and environmental laws. This is a serious risk to our democracy and sovereignty, and should not be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations.

The claimed “safeguards” for health and environment in the Korea FTA are the same clauses included since 2004 in the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the Peru-US Free Trade Agreement. These clauses have not prevented cases against environmental regulation. The Government of El Salvador has been sued by Pacific Rim Mining Corporation under the Central American Free Trade Agreement, over a ban on mining to protect the nation’s limited groundwater resources. In Peru, the US-based Renco Group is using ISDS in the Peru-US Free Trade Agreement to contest a local court decision that it was responsible for pollution from its lead mine. Both cases are ongoing and may take several years.

The inclusion of ISDS in multiple trade agreements increases the chances of Australian governments being sued, as is now happening with the Philip Morris tobacco company suing the Australian Government over the tobacco plain packaging law.

ISDS should not be included in the Japan FTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) or any other trade agreement.

Yours sincerely

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