The IACEPA is a major undertaking with profound implications for the economies and societies concerned. Yet, as appears to be the way with all trade agreements Australia is involved in, the IACEPA has been negotiated and entered into with very little public scrutiny up to this point.
We should expect that trade agreements are subject to proper scrutiny and that unions and others in civil society, as well as business, have the opportunity for genuine input into the negotiations on behalf of those they represent. To date trade agreement negotiations are conducted behind closed doors and Australia lags behind other countries and institutions when it comes to public scrutiny. This whole process in Australia contrasts with the experience in the European Union, for example. The EU has recognised legitimate community demand for the negotiating papers and final text to be exposed to public debate.
Unions have concerns with a number of elements of the IACEPA but in this submission we will focus on key problems;
- The inclusion of increased number of temporary workers who are vulnerable to exploitation
- The inclusion of Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions and the failure to cancel the previous Indonesia-Australia investment Agreement
- Lack of compliance with International human rights and labour rights law and environmental standards
- The lack of transparency and accountability in negotiations
Trade agreements must have a rock-solid commitment to ensuring that they do not jeopardise Australian jobs, undermine working conditions or compromise the ability of current and future Australian governments to exercise their sovereign rights to regulate in the public interest. Where proposed free trade agreements, or provisions of those agreements, are not in the national interest and the interests of our members and workers generally, we will make the case for change.