The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) is a network of community organisations and individuals that has campaigned since 2000 for a fairer and more democratic global trade system, based on human rights and environmental sustainability.
Take a look at the video celebrating 20 years of achievements:
Our successes include:
- Pressuring government consult with community groups as well as business, and to publish some information about trade negotiations, although this is still very limited
- Raising awareness of the social impacts of trade agreements through community education and public events, submissions to government and media debate.
- Reducing public support for the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) from 65% to 34% in 2004.
- Defeating some of the worst proposals in the AUSFTA, like threats to GM food labelling, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and giving corporations the right to sue governments over domestic laws, known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). The AUSFTA is the only US bilateral agreement which does not include ISDS.
- Being part of global campaigns that defeated harmful proposals in the World Trade Organisation.
- Influencing the Productivity Commission 2010 Report on Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements, which recommended against giving corporations the right to sue governments in trade agreements (ISDS), and against giving pharmaceutical companies more intellectual property rights in order to charge higher prices for medicines.
- Being part of the global campaign which defeated the Anti-Counterfeiting Agreement in 2011
- Influencing Australian Labor Government trade policy announced in 2011, which rejected the right of corporations to sue governments in trade agreements, (ISDS), adopted the Productivity Commission recommendations not to extend medicine monopolies and copyright monopolies, and pledged to preserve the right of governments to regulate the price of medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The policy against ISDS was reversed by the Liberal-National Coalition Government elected in 2013, but we have continued the campaign against ISDS.
- Supporting a 2015 Senate Inquiry into secrecy and lack of democracy in the trade agreement process, resulting in a Report called Blind Agreement which recommended a more open and democratic process
- Campaigning for six years with colleagues in other TPP countries against the TPP-12 corporate agenda, successfully lobbying for a Senate inquiry which recommended against the TPP implementing legislation in November 2016. After the US withdrawal, the 11 remaining governments negotiated the TPP-11 or CPTPP in 2017-18. Advocacy by AFTINET and similar groups in other countries influenced the decision by the 11 governments to suspend the worst proposals for stronger monopolies on medicines.
- In May 2019 gaining pledges from Labor, Greens and Centre Alliance to support a more democratic trade negotiation, signing and ratification process, to support commitments to enforceable labour rights and environmental standards, and to oppose damaging provisions like corporate rights to sue governments and stronger medicine monopolies in trade agreements.
- In September 2019 the 16 governments involved in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreed to drop giving corporations legal rights to sue governments (ISDS) from the negotiations.
- In November 2020 the publication of the RCEP text confirmed that there was no extension of medicine monopoles. The dropping of ISDS and longer medicine monopoles was achieved through advocacy by AFTINET and similar groups in other RCEP countries over the seven years since negotiations began in 2012.
- In September 2021, AFTINET and its allied organisations successfully lobbied for the Australian Government and Opposition to express support for a waiver on WTO rules on medicines monopolies to allow low-income countries to produce their own COVID19 vaccines. We are still advocating for further changes to WTO rules for future pandemics
- In 2021, we successfully advocated for a Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) inquiry into Australia's secretive and undemocratic trade agreement process. After AFTINET made a submission to the inquiry and gave evidence, the inquiry adopted some of our recommendations for greater transparency in trade agreements, and a minority report called for even stronger reforms.
- In 2022 the new Labor government implemented its policy to exclude investor rights to sue governments ISDS) from new trade agreements and for some improved public consultation about trade negotiations. We are still advocating for them to review ISDS in existing trade agreements, for publication and independent evaluation of the text of agreements before they are signed.