Negoititations for a UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement were launched in June, 2020 and continue in 2021 following the UK Brexit agreement with the EU..
The 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.
The agenda is dominated by corporate interests and key issues of concern are:
- 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 2021.