April 14, 2021: The Australian Council of Trade Unions condemned the Federal Government at a parliamentary inquiry hearing into Myanmar on April 13, 2021, for pressing ahead with ratifying the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement which includes trade with Myanmar.
April 8, 2021: Pakistan’s Board of Investment has prepared a strategy to withdraw from all inhibiting clauses in the 53 Bilateral Investment Treaties the country has with 48 countries, including Australia.
The major concerns are provisions related to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). These shrink the policy space for the government to adopt measures in the public interest.
April 7, 2021: A new analysis of the COVAX initiative to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries uncovers major ethical and governance problems as well as health risks for the target countries. COVAX involves the World Health Organisation, governments, philanthropic initiatives like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and pharmaceutical companies in the purchase of vaccines from the companies to make them available to low-income countries.
March 31, 2021: The Biden Administration has come under pressure from almost 100 Congressional Democrats to support the suspension of World Trade Organisation rules on intellectual property during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 23 world leaders are now proposing a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response.
March 23, 2021: Australian government failure to support changes to World Trade Organisation monopoly rules on vaccines is negating its announcements about helping low-income countries to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19, according to Dr Deborah Gleeson’s article in The Conversation.
March 22, 2021: With significant problems emerging in global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the issue of vaccine prices is now emerging as another major problem for a fair, effective and rapid global vaccination program.
The World Trade Organisation rules give 20-year monopoly patents for medicines, which empowers a few global corporations to determine both supply and price, but these rules were never designed for a global pandemic.
March 19, 2021: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) between Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea and the 10 ASEAN countries was tabled in parliament on March 18.
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) has called for submissions by 16 April 2021, and is expected to hold public hearings in April-May.