The ACTU welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to this JSCOT inquiry into the EU Framework Agreement.
The ACTU is the peak body for Australian unions.,. The ACTU and affiliated unions have had a long and significant interest in the trade agenda on behalf of our members and workers generally.
We welcome the commitments in the framework agreement to implement democratic principles, labour and human rights, and inclusive and sustainable growth for human development in any future trade agreement.
Our submission is focused on Title IV, Cooperation on Economic and Trade Matters, and sets out principles which should guide the parties in the event that negotiations commence for an EU-Australia free trade agreement.
The ACTU believes that Australia’s approach to trade is broken and needs to change. The single most important objective of trade policy should be to deliver benefits to the Australian economy, communities and working people by increasing opportunities for local businesses and creating local jobs, whilst allowing developing countries the right to develop.
Over recent decades, politics and policy making have been dominated by the neoliberal idea that what is best for big business is best for Australian communities and workers, based on its tenets of free markets without government intervention, private ownership of public services, individual but not shared responsibility, and maximization of company and shareholder wealth. Neoliberalism decrees that if we design policy to increase the profits of big business, the benefits will trickle down and improve wages and conditions for everyday working Australians. The Government’s policies on trade are no exception.
The ACTU supports trade and multilateral negotiations over preferential bilateral and regional negotiations that discriminate against other trading partners. We are particularly concerned that the current agreement making process undermines our democracy and our government is not listening to the concerns of unions and the broader public.
This submission argues against the inclusion of labour mobility clauses, the ISDS mechanisms, opening Australian services to greater privatisation and the clauses stopping government from being able to support local business through local procurement.