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Labor should not pass a China trade agreement that includes ISDS

Media Release
Peter Whish-Wilson 3 Sep 2015

Greens spokesperson for Trade, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, is calling on Labor to refuse to pass the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) while it still contains an open-ended Investor-State Dispute-Settlement (ISDS) provision.

Today on morning radio, the Labor Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, said, “We want to see the China Free Trade Agreement implemented… Those concerns can be dealt with by the Government… They don't need to reopen the agreements, the agreement with China. They don't need to go back to Beijing and renegotiate.”

Senator Whish-Wilson said, “Given that ISDS is in black and white in the core text of ChAFTA, this statement by Chris Bowen indicates that Labor is looking to pass ChAFTA inclusive of this anti-democratic clause.

“Labor has a standing policy of not supporting ISDS provisions in trade deals, so why the backflip?”

“ChAFTA will set the standard for a much larger Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal that is currently being negotiated between China, Australia and South East Asian nations, so it is important we avoid setting this dangerous precedent now.

“Concerns about ISDS have been raised by the Health Department, the Productivity Commission and the Chief Justice of the High Court, and only recently Labor members were successful in passing a resolution against it at their national conference.

“The ISDS clause in ChAFTA is open-ended in that it proposes to establish a committee to further negotiate what aspects of public policy it covers.

“If Labor were to pass the enabling legislation for ChAFTA they would be giving a blank cheque for the sort of provision that led to Australia being sued by Philip Morris for introducing plain packaging laws, or Quebec being sued for introducing a moratorium on fracking.

“The Greens will always oppose trade deals that subjugate laws made by Australian parliaments to private international courts all in the name of protecting foreign corporations.

“Labor need to send Abbott back to the negotiating table to negotiate a deal that doesn’t include ISDS. And they only way they can do that is to commit to blocking the enabling legislation in the Senate,” he concluded.

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