Director-General of the WHO walks back on previous support for a TRIPS-waiver extension

10 January, 2023: At the end of last year, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, cautioned against undermining intellectual property rules. His comments, made at a press briefing in Geneva, were significant considering the ongoing, deadlocked discussions at the World Trade Organisation on whether to extend a temporary waiver of some intellectual property rules for COVID. The Director-General has previously expressed strong support for a TRIPS waiver extension and his comments raised concerns of his shifting position.

Panama sued by 3+ mining companies after supreme court rules mining contract unconstitutional

9 January, 2024: In November, Panama’s Supreme Court found Law 406, which gave a 20-year mining concession for the multi-billion copper mine Cobre Panamá, was unconstitutional. However, following the ruling, Panama is now facing at least three Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) cases from mining investors who claim that their investments have been affected by the decision.

Concerns about “unfair” WHO Pandemic Agreement negotiations

14 December 2023: WHO negotiations resumed in early December to discuss the Pandemic Agreement. There have been reports that the US and EU have exerted pressure to influence negotiations, namely to remove a lead Africa Group negotiator known for strongly supporting equity provisions. These claims have led to questions on whether key equity provisions are unfairly under threat from coercive power of wealthier nations. 

India, South Africa and others call for WTO General Council decision on expansion of WTO decision on COVID vaccines

12 December, 2023: Several nations, including India and South Africa, have requested that World Trade Organisation (WTO) members expand the WTO  June 2022 decision to change some rules on COVID vaccines  to include COVID treatments and tests, saying the risks of COVID remain urgent. However, the US, EU, UK, Switzerland and Japan, supported by pharmaceutical companies, have instead argued that conversation should not focus on expanding the decision but should shift to pandemic preparedness.

WTO negotiations on temporarily waiving some intellectual property rules for COVID products like vaccines, treatments and tests, intended to ensure more affordable and equitable medicines production, commenced more than 3 years ago. However, discussions have hit multiple roadblocks.

JSCOT Inquiry on amended ANZ-ASEAN agreement submissions due January 16

6 December, 2023: On November 30 the government referred the amended ASEAN Australia-NZ- Free Trade Agreement for review to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT). This is the agreement containing ISDS provisions which are being used by Clive Palmer to sue the Australian government for over $340 billion. The government has a policy to review and remove ISDS provisions in existing agreements. Palmer's cases will proceed but there is some urgency or action to prevent similar cases from Australian or overseas investors.

Normally the text must be tabled for 20 sitting days which would mean the committee would report in May 2024. But January 16 is the deadline for submissions!

Fossil fuel companies are still using the ECT to sue EU countries, despite their decision to withdraw from the treaty

4 December, 2023: Despite the EU formally proposing the collective exit of the Energy Charter Treaty in July 2023 and the withdrawal by EU countries including France, Germany and Denmark, the treaty remains in effect and fossil fuel companies are still using it to sue EU countries for millions over their climate mitigation policies.

Clive Palmer’s third ISDS case utilises a judicially flawed system and is a threat to climate action

30 November, 2023: In a recent article on the Australia Institute website Stephen Long outlines the flawed judicial processes of Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and the threat to Australian climate action that Clive Palmer’s third ISDS case poses.

ISDS is a special provision in some trade agreements which can be used by multinational corporations to claim billions in compensation if they can argue that a change in law or policy would reduce their future profits. This includes changes intended to protect health, labour rights, and the environment.

Collapse of the Australia-EU FTA negotiations should not open the door to deals without human rights and environmental commitments

29 November, 2023: Following the collapse of the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) last month, there is some media speculation that the Albanese government might attempt to bolster its free trade agenda by reviving  a trade deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite its poor human rights and labour rights record.

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