AFTINET Principles, Aims & Objectives

Our principles 

There is widespread concern that current trade policy gives priority to the flow of goods, services, investment and finance at the expense of local development, protection of the environment and human rights.

Trade agreements can restrict the scope of legitimate government regulation in many areas. Under the guise of deregulation and free trade, regulatory powers are in fact transferred to international institutions beyond the reach of democratic accountability.

Trade disputes processes, conducted behind closed doors, have defined environmental regulation, food safety regulation, and local industry policies as barriers to trade. These decisions can be enforced through trade sanctions.

There is a wealth of international law developed through the United Nations (UN) on human rights, labour rights, cultural development, rights of indigenous people, the environment and health and safety. UN processes are more transparent and accountable than those of trade agreements, and its agreements are enacted through domestic legislation in each member country. In some cases trade disputes processes have undermined established principles recognised in international environment and health law such as the precautionary principle, that is, the right to restrict potential dangers to health and environment. Some trade and investment agreements give rights to foreign investors to sue governments if public regulation harms their investment.

Thus trade processes can deliver favourable trade and investment conditions for some corporations but foster a race to the bottom on regulatory standards. Developing country government and non-government organisations have criticised the lack of transparency of trade negotiations and the domination by the governments of the most powerful economies.

We reject a "fortress Australia" protectionist strategy and welcome the development of fair trading relationships with all countries. However we believe that trade and investment policy should be based on local conditions and fair regulatory standards and should be decided through democratically accountable processes.

Our aims and objectives

  • a critical re-assessment of the WTO and other trade structures and dispute processes;
  • greater public discussion and accountability for government trade policy and for international trade negotiation processes;
  • a trade and investment framework which does not erode local ability to regulate on issues of economic development, the environment, human rights and labour rights;
  • more effective representation of developing countries and more effective international regulation through the United Nations on the environment, human rights and labour rights. AFTINET:
  • monitors trade and investment negotiation processes;
  • establishes contacts with similar international networks;
  • exchanges information and basic educational material on trade issues;
  • raises community awareness and debate through public events and activities and
  • seeks to change trade and investment policy based on these principles