August 8. 2019: Stephen Grenville from the Lowy Institute, formerly with the OECD, argues in The Interpreter that Australia should not uncritically join US attacks on Chinese theft of intellectual property (IP) on patents and copyright. He says that the current system is “so distorted by vested interests that the main beneficiary may be the army of patent lawyers and the legal process which support them.”
World Trade Organisation
July 29, 2019: After an 18-month inquiry, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which is independent of government, has produced a Report on Digital Platforms with 23 recommendations for regulation to protect consumer privacy, prevent extremist and misleading digital content, address the market dominance of Facebook and Google and support public interest journalism.
July 11, 2019: A new article by Deborah James at the Centre for Economic and Policy Research has criticised the attempt by industrialised countries to use the WTO to establish new e-commerce rules that would increase the power of Big Tech corporations and restrict developing countries' digital industrialisation.
April 16, 2019: A New report from UNCTAD critiques the failings of the existing multilateral order to establish a stable global economy that facilitates prosperity for all. Against the backdrop of persistent global poverty, rising inequality, the imminent climate crisis, and a global economy that remains inherently unstable 10 years after the 2008 financial crisis, the report calls for a new approach to multilateralism that is genuinely democratic and works towards the realisation of “shared prosperity and a healthy planet”.
April 3, 2019: Over three hundred labour unions, consumer advocates and environmental organizations from all continents sent a letter on April 1, 2019, to World Trade Organization member nations expressing a "profound and urgent opposition" to talks that would establish new rules on digital trade.
April 1, 2019: The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has produced Report 185 recommending that Australia accede to the revised WTO Procurement Agreement (GPA). There is no implementing legislation because the only required legislation for accession was the Government Procurement (Judicial Review) Act which was passed in October 2018 with other implementing legislation for the TPP 11.
February 27, 2019: Rich countries including Australia decided at the recent World Economic Forum meeting at Davos to push for an E-Commerce Agreement in the World Trade Organisation. Their formula is for ‘free digital trade’, for rules that suit global digital corporations – notably Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple. This push has been strongly criticised by consumer and civil society groups.
February 13, 2019: Chakravarthi Raghavan, an esteemed author of several books on the WTO, and Jomo Kwame Sundaram, former United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development, have issued a sharp warning to developing countries about the e-commerce initiative recently launched at Davos by a group of rich country governments, including Australia.
February 10, 2019: AFTINET's submission to the JSCOT Inquiry on Australia joining the WTO Government Procurement Agreement argues that the government has not presented any independent assessment of the costs and benefits of Australia joining the agreement, that would justify Australia's accession.
February 5, 2019: Chinese and US trade negotiators meet in Washington again next week to try to reach an agreement to avoid a massively escalated tariff war from March 1. Without a deal, US punitive tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese imports will go up from 10 per cent to 25 per cent, and China is likely to respond in kind. The US is blocking appointments to the World Trade Organisation appeals body, and threatening to leave the 164-member WTO.