ISDS undermines urgent government action to combat climate change

Senior Lecturer at La Trobe Law School Julia Dehm explains how special rights for foreign investors in trade agreements, known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) threaten urgent government action to combat climate change. ISDS enables investors such as Clive Palmer to challenge court decisions which protect the right of governments to regulate to reduce carbon emissions and to protect human rights.

Read her post here:

The head of the WTO urges greater use of TRIPS flexibilities

21 November, 2023: Last week Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, encouraged developing countries to put in place “effective mechanisms in their domestic laws” that allow them to use flexibilities in the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Agreement in health emergencies. This is particularly important following the lack of progress of TRIPS waiver extension negotiations, which also aimed limit the impact of medicines monopolies on access to health products in emergencies.

IPEF environment and tax/anti-corruption agreements completed but text not released: enforceability not clear

November 20, 2023: As reported last week, the 14 members of the of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) did not meet the target of completing all of its four pillars at the IPEF Ministers meeting in San Francisco on November 16-18.

Instead, negotiations were delayed for Pillar I on trade, which is like a mini trade agreement, over disagreements on regulation of digital trade and the enforceability of labour and environment standards. The text of Pillar II on supply chains had been released in September, and that agreement was signed on November 16. See AFTINET’s preliminary analysis here.

IPEF supply chain deal signed but trade pillar not completed

November 15, 2023: Trade Ministers from the 14 countries of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) who met this week in San Francisco have signed an agreement to improve supply chain cooperation, known as IPEF Pillar 2. Reports indicate IPEF heads of government may announce on Friday that the environment and anti-corruption pillars have made progress, and that talks on the trade pillar may continue. However, there is uncertainty about whether IPEF negotiations will continue during the US presidential election campaign next year. 

Clive Palmer uses another trade agreement to sue Australia, again, for $A69 billion over refusal of Waratah coal mine permit

14 November, 2023: Billionaire Clive Palmer has given notice to the Australian government that his Singapore-based company Zeph investments is using the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process in the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement to claim an additional A$69 billion in compensation because the Queensland Land Court refused permits for its Waratah coal mining project in North Queensland. The permits were refused for environmental reasons, including their contribution to increased carbon emissions.

Calls for greater transparency at government inquiry on trade

13 November, 2023: In comments made to the Canberra Times, the Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU) criticised Australia’s current system for negotiating trade deals, calling for greater transparency, scrutiny and consultation with trade unions.

These comments echo widespread criticism of the level of transparency in submissions from AFTINET, civil society and some industry groups in the recent Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth (JSCOT) inquiry into the Australian Government’s approach to negotiating trade and investment agreements.

US government responds to demands to regulate big tech in WTO and IPEF negotiations

9 November, 2023: Amid ongoing public debate about how to better regulate the technology industry the US has withdrawn some digital trade demands at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) made in 2019 under the Trump administration. Those advocating for tighter controls on Big Tech have said this marked a positive step in defining global digital standard-setting and pushing back at US tech industry lobbyists’ use of trade deals to undercut government regulation.

200+ US civil society groups call for Biden to terminate ISDS provisions in US trade agreements

6 November, 2023: More than 200 civil society groups have called for the Biden administration to exit Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in its existing trade agreements stating the provisions threatened the US’ actions towards a clean energy transition.

ISDS is a special provision in some trade agreements. ISDS 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.

Potential US-Indonesia critical minerals agreement prompts backlash over Indonesia’s poor environmental and human rights record

30 October, 2023: The US, concerned with reliance on imports from China amid growing global demand for critical minerals, has been aggressively developing its critical mineral supply chains over the last years. However, a bipartisan group of senators have recently criticised the Biden administration for pursuing a critical mineral deal with Indonesia. They argue that Indonesia’s poor labour and environmental record should preclude it from a special trading relationship with the US.

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