EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement

Negotiations for an EU-Australia FTA began in July 2018, were delayed at the end of 2021 by diplomatic tensions over the Australian cancellation of the French submarine contract, but resumed in 2022  .

Australia was seeking greater market access for its agricultural goods and for manufacturing and services exports. The danger was that it could trade off other important policies in return for these. See AFTINET’s 2018 submission here.

The EU wanted protection for its Geographical Indications for agricultural products (that only EU products can be called Prosecco, Feta cheese etc). It has demanded this as a condition for reduced tariffs and quotas for Australian agricultural exports. Australian farmers and food industries said  no to this, but wanted more access to the EU for their exports. 

Collapse of the Australia-EU FTA negotiations should not open the door to deals without human rights and environmental commitments

29 November, 2023: Following the collapse of the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) last month, there is some media speculation that the Albanese government might attempt to bolster its free trade agenda by reviving  a trade deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite its poor human rights and labour rights record.

European Court says States should decide on ISDS

On 16 May 2017, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued the long-awaited landmark Opinion 2/15 on the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA). According to the CJEU, the agreement falls under the EU’s powers, but not entirely. EU Member States’ national and regional parliaments and the European Parliament must ratify some important provisions regarding investors, particularly ISDS.

European Court decision that ISDS is incompatible with national legal autonomy undermines ISDS in the TPP-11

April 3, 2018: The European Court of Justice ruled in March that Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) between two EU member states, which allows corporations to sue governments for damages over changes in domestic law, has an adverse effect on the autonomy of EU law, and is therefore incompatible with EU law.

The Court found that damages awarded to a Dutch private health insurance company against Slovakia by an ISDS tribunal breached EU law. The ISDS claim was made by the company under a Bilateral Investment Treaty because the Slovakian government reversed a decision to privatise health insurance.

Turnbull government fails transparency test on proposed EU FTA negotiations

June 27, 2018: On Monday, the European Union published its “Negotiating Directives” for its proposed free trade agreement with Australia, but the Australian government hasn’t matched this level of transparency by publishing its own objectives.

The Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network has already requested in its submissions on the EU FTA that the Turnbull government release its own negotiating objectives, and release negotiating texts, and will continue to pursue the government to do so.

Report says EU must change trade agreements to ensure climate action

April 5, 2018: A report by the French Veblen Institute and environmental groups urges the European Union to make specific amendments to the EU-Canada and other agreements to ensure that trade agreements do not undermine the 2016 Paris climate agreement and that governments make enforceable commitments to implement the Paris agreement. It builds on previous research in both Europe and the US.

The report notes that environmental chapters in the EU-Canada deal and others like the CPTPP are not enforceable.

EU-Australia FTA talks have quietly dropped ISDS

23 May, 2018: SBS news reported yesterday that the European Union has authorised negotiations for a free-trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and Australia, as well as the EU and New Zealand. Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo told SBS News that he hopes the FTA negotiations will commence ‘very soon’. 

The EU Commission first flagged the FTA negotiations in September 2017. Yesterday it issued a press release welcoming the commencement of the negotiations. 

AFTINET submission: the EU-Australia FTA framework agreement

May 3, 2018: AFTINET's full submission on the EU-Australia FTA framework agreement is now available here

This framework agreement is not a legally binding trade agreement, but is a framework required as a legally binding instrument by the EU in order to assess whether potential trade agreement partners share EU values, before commencing formal free trade agreement negotiations. It deals with a wide range of issues in addition to trade agreements. The JSCOT inquiry submissions closed on April 20 and the committee is due to report on August 22.

The committee will make a recommendation about the framework agreement but, since it requires no legislation, Parliament will not vote on it, which reinforces our comments below about the undemocratic nature of the trade agreement process.

EU-Australia trade talks quietly dump foreign investor rights to sue governments

Media Release, May 23, 2018: “ We welcome the fact that the EU mandate for the EU Australia FTA talks has dumped the controversial  rights for foreign investors to  sue governments in international tribunals, known as ISDS, because European courts have found that  ISDS cases have undermined democratic regulation. ISDS is so unpopular that the EU fears that its inclusion may lead to rejection of trade agreements by EU national parliaments,” AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald said today.

“But both governments have failed to mention this in the publicity about the agreement. The Turnbull government is still ignoring the evidence against ISDS and supporting it in the TPP-11 and other agreements. They do not want Australians to know that other trading partners are rejecting ISDS,” she added.

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