Overview

Australia and Hong Kong launched negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement in May 2017. 

Hong Kong already had zero tariffs levels on Australian goods exports, so this agreement was mainly about services, investment and “non-tariff barriers.”Australia already had a bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong (1993), which included investor rights to sue governments (ISDS). This was the treaty that Philip Morris used to sue the Australian Government over the cigarette plain packaging laws.

The agreement was signed in March 2019, and the text revealed that that the agreement contained ISDS with some claimed safeguards for governemtns' right to regulate. The old Hong Kong-Australia bilateral Investment treaty was to be cancelled.

Hong Kong FTA negotiations launched

21 May 2017: Australia has now officially launched free trade negotiations with Hong Kong.

Australia has a bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong (1993), which includes ISDS. This is the treaty that Philip Morris tried to use to sue the Australian Government over the cigarette plain packaging laws. A more comprehensive FTA with Hong Kong is likely to replace this older investment agreement.

Submissions are now open. AFTINET’s submission advocates for the existing deal with ISDS to be cancelled and for ISDS to not be included in the new agreement.

For a summary of the other key issues click here. 


Post updated 31 May 2017

Media Release: Hong Kong FTA would still allow foreign investors to sue our government, says AFTINET

Tuesday, March 26, 2019: “The Australia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement and separate Investment Agreement signed today still give special rights to foreign investors to bypass national courts and sue governments for millions of dollars in international tribunals if they can argue that a change in law or policy would harm their investment, known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS,” AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald said today.

“The investment agreement replaces the notorious 1993 Hong Kong investment agreement which the Philip Morris tobacco company used to claim hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for Australia’s tobacco plain packaging law,” said Dr Ranald.

AFTINET JSCOT submissions on trade and investment agreements with Indonesia and Hong Kong

AFTINET’s  submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership is here and on the trade and investment agreements with Hong Kong is here.

We have recommended against ratification of both agreements for the reasons listed below.

Indonesia Agreement issues of concern

ACTU calls for a delay in ratification of trade and investment deals with Hong Kong

August 28, 2019: The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has called on the Government to delay ratification of the recently signed trade and investment agreements with Hong Kong until concerns about human rights abuses against pro-democracy protesters have been resolved.

The Hong Kong agreements were signed in March this year and are currently being reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, with public hearings held in Sydney and Melbourne earlier this week and further hearings scheduled for early September.

AFTINET joins Unions to rally against ratification of Hong Kong agreement

September 2, 2019: AFTINET has joined with the ACTU, APHEDA and other Union and community groups to stand in solidarity with workers and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

AFTINET Convener Pat Ranald spoke at a rally held in Sydney on Monday 2 September and called on the government not to ratify the recently signed trade and investment agreements with Hong Kong until human rights abuses against democracy protesters have been resolved.

Dr Ranald highlighted that lack of provisions committing governments to protect human rights, workers’ rights or environmental standards in the Hong Kong agreement. She called for all trade agreements to include enforceable provisions that ensure governments uphold these fundamental rights.

MPs consider delay in trade agreement ratification amidst concerns about human rights abuses in Hong Kong

September 5, 2019: Concern about human rights abuses against pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong could lead to a delay in the ratification of the Hong Kong trade and investment agreements. This comes after civil society and Union groups, including AFTINET and the ACTU, called on the government to delay voting on the implementing legislation for the agreements until after the human rights situation was resolved.

MP’s from Liberal, Labor and the Greens have all expressed concerns about the situation in Hong Kong and said that it would be a factor in deciding whether to approve the deals.

ACTU polling reveals community opposition to trade agreements that undermine workers’ rights and government sovereignty

October 9, 2019: Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) polling in the seats of Bass, Brand, Corio, Hunter and Rankin reveals 75 - 80 per cent of voters oppose trade agreements that allow additional work visas without first testing if local workers can fill available jobs and that include Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that give corporations the right to sue governments for policy decisions that impact on their profit.

The polling comes as parliamentarians are preparing for a likely vote on the implementing legislation for trade agreements with Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong next week. All three of these agreements include ISDS provisions and the Indonesia and Peru agreements also expand the number of temporary workers that are vulnerable to exploitation.

Media Release: Community groups urge Labor and cross-bench to oppose Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru trade deals

Community groups representing millions say trade deals with Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru put corporate rights before people and environment and urge Labor and cross-bench to oppose them

“National organisations representing unions, church, aid and development, environment and public health constituencies have written to Labor and cross-bench MPs asking them to oppose implementing legislation for trade deals with Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong,” AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald said today

The organisations include the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, ActionAid Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Earth Australia and the Public Health Association of Australia.

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