Business welcomes Opposition support for the TPP and improvements to trade agreements, and warns on moves to remove dispute resolution and labour market arrangements

11 Sep 2018 |

Australia’s largest and most representative business lobby group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomes the Federal Opposition’s support for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CP-TPP) and improvements to the negotiation and assessment of trade agreements; but warns the Federal Opposition not to take us backwards in Free Trade Agreement labour arrangements, and in the way international disputes are settled.

“We credit the Federal Opposition for taking a proactive approach to strengthen Australia’s international competitiveness through endorsement of CP-TPP legislation, and welcome the Opposition’s proposals to boost transparency and analysis of Australia’s Free Trade Agreements,” Australian Chamber CEO, James Pearson, said today.

“Australian businesses are operating in highly competitive global markets and free trade agreements have a significant impact on our international competitiveness.

“It’s important we have the right policy settings and frameworks in place to ensure we are getting the most from our free trade agreements.

“Several of the proposals the Federal Opposition have put forward today will improve the quality and effectiveness of Australia’s Free Trade Agreements. Key elements of the Opposition’s approach are consistent with what the Australian Chamber has been lobbying for years.

Mr Pearson said the Chamber specifically welcomes the Opposition’s proposals to:

  • Strengthen the role of the Parliament by briefing the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties at the end of each round of negotiations and providing it with the Government’s Statement of Objectives for Negotiation for consideration and feedback
  • Introduce legislation to establish a system of ‘Accredited Trade Advisors’ from industry, unions and civil society groups who would provide real-time feedback on draft trade agreement text during negotiations
  • Provide public updates on each round of negotiations and releasing draft texts during negotiations where this is feasible
  • Introduce Legislation to require an Independent National Interest Assessment to be conducted on every new trade agreement before it is signed to examine the economic, strategic and social impact of any new trade agreements.

“However, we need to ensure that Australian businesses overseas are protected from adverse decisions where their investments might be expropriated. That’s what Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) does. It helps to level the playing field for Australian firms who have the courage to take their products, services, talented people and capital into the international market, by giving them, as well as overseas investors in Australia, the right to access an international tribunal to resolve investment disputes.” Mr Pearson said.

“We are also disappointed that labour market arrangements negotiated over many years and many agreements with our important trading partners are being called into question.

“Australian job opportunities are enhanced by favourable, mutually beneficial arrangements with our trading partners. If Australians want to be able, for themselves and their children, to have opportunities to work overseas, then we need to recognise that the same applies to the best and brightest from overseas, whose skills can benefit Australia and fill gaps in the employment market here.

“We will continue to urge a bipartisan approach to policies that will make Australia the best place in the world to do business, so Australians can have the jobs, opportunities and living standards to which they aspire.

Duncan Bremner

Director - Public Affairs and Advocacy

P  |  0448 822 666

E  |  [email protected]

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