AFTINET submission to the JSCOT Review of the amended ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area

18 January, 2023: AFTINET has made a submission to the JSCOT review of the amended ASEAN Australia-New Zealand-Free Trade Area (AANZFTA). The amended agreement still contains Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions which are being used by Australian businessman Clive Palmer to sue the Australian government for over $340 billion.

JSCOT Inquiry on amended ANZ-ASEAN agreement submissions due January 16

6 December, 2023: On November 30 the government referred the amended ASEAN Australia-NZ- Free Trade Agreement for review to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT). This is the agreement containing ISDS provisions which are being used by Clive Palmer to sue the Australian government for over $340 billion. The government has a policy to review and remove ISDS provisions in existing agreements. Palmer's cases will proceed but there is some urgency or action to prevent similar cases from Australian or overseas investors.

Normally the text must be tabled for 20 sitting days which would mean the committee would report in May 2024. But January 16 is the deadline for submissions!

Pesticide residues in imported food – deregulation at work

September 8, 2020: A study published by Friends of the Earth Australia in May exposed a serious level of pesticide residues on foods imported into Australia in the period 2017-19. The data came from Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service monthly Failing Food Reports.

Foods which are not considered a “Risk Food” are called “Surveillance Foods” and 5 per cent of consignments are tested. Surveillance Food where pesticide tests are carried out include fruit, fruit juices, and vegetables.

There was a total of 400 pesticide detections at or above Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) between 2017-19, with a total of 47 different pesticides breaching MRLs. Many food consignments had multiple pesticide breaches.

AFTINET submission to the Review of ISDS in the Australia-NZ-ASEAN free trade agreement

February 6, 2022: This revision of the ASEAN agreement (AANZFTA) was begun under the Morrison coalition government and Labor Trade Minister Farrell announced on November 14 that in-principle agreement has been reached on most issues. The text will not be released until after it is finalised. The RCEP and CPTPP texts are being used as models. The provisions on corporate rights to sue governments (Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS) arrangements are still being reviewed.

AANZFTA was signed in 2010. The ISDS rights were heavily qualified by some ASEAN governments. AFTINET has made a submission arguing that the government should implement its policy to review and remove ISDS provisions from existing agreements.

AFTINET calls for human rights, labour rights and environmental standards in Southeast Asia Strategy 2040

March 20, 2023: DFAT has called for submissions for the Government’s Southeast Asia strategy 2040.

Despite the long-term time frame of the strategy, there is no reference so far to inequality in the region or to human rights, labour rights or environmental standards.

The strategy will not take the form of a legally enforceable trade agreement, but is likely to be a series of Memoranda of Understanding to increase Australian trade and investment in the region. The strategy will include topics like supply chains, green economy/environment, agriculture and digital trade. These will sit alongside trade agreements like the Australia-ASEAN-NZ FTA and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Clive Palmer using ASEAN Free Trade Agreement to sue Australia for $300 billion shows need for ISDS to be removed from trade agreements

April 4, 2023: Clive Palmer is claiming $300 billion in an international tribunal to compensate for legislation passed by the Western Australian Parliament to remove his ability to extract damages from the state regarding the Balmoral South Iron Ore Project in the Pilbara. His claim has already failed in the High Court.

Palmer is using Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses in  Australia’s 2010 free trade agreement with New Zealand and ten ASEAN countries. ISDS enables foreign (but not local) investors to claim damages from governments if they can argue that a change in law or policy has reduced their future profits.

ASEAN/NZ/Australia Free Trade Agreement

The negotiations between ASEAN, New Zealand, and Australia for a Free Trade Agreement concluded at the ASEAN Economics Ministers Meeting on Closer Economic Relations in August 2008. The agreement was signed at the East Asia Summit in February 2009.

ASEAN is comprised of Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore, the Phillipines, Brunei, Laos, and Vietnam.

The inclusion of Burma in the agreement amplifies AFTINET's concerns about the need to ensure that our trading practices strengthen human rights commitments, not undermine them.

For more information see AFTINET's submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (2009) and the Asia Trade Taskforce (2005).

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