The TPP puts globalisation before Australian workers and threatens the fundamentals of our democracy. By destroying thousands of Australian jobs and driving down wages we believe the TPP will lead to higher levels of inequality. The TPP is a toxic combination of globalization and more power to multinationals ahead of democracy for Australian workers.
Australia must turn away from trade that puts profit before people. We need a forge a new trade agenda based on the principles outlined below.
Forging a new trade agenda
A good trade deal will put shared prosperity and sustainable social and economic development at the centre of the agreement.
The primary measure of the success of our trade policies should be measured through quality job creation, rising wages and more engaged and competitive businesses; all measures of broadly shared benefits. It should not be based on higher corporate profits, increased offshoring of Australian jobs or through weakening labour market protections, wages, rules of law and democratic decision-making.
This contrasts to the approach to current trade policy which operates on the basis that liberalising trade and investment is an end unto itself, rather than a means of creating a fair trade playing field between countries that creates mutual benefits based on respect for worker’s rights, protection of the environment and increased opportunities for businesses regardless of their size or power.
Principles for trade deals
Trade deals should be based on a set of fundamental principles which themselves draw on core values of human dignity, egalitarianism, fairness and equality of opportunity.
In order to guarantee that potential benefits of increased trade will be realised and result in tangible benefits for workers, businesses and communities, and that these benefits will be evenly distributed, we recommend the following principles:
Protecting Sovereignty – State to State dispute processes which recognise the fact that trade agreements are made between sovereign nations which have the right to make choices about policies that benefit their citizens. This means opposing deals with ISDS provisions as they currently stand.
Domestic Laws – Recognition of the right of sovereign governments and parliaments to implement rules that preserve and protect the place of domestic political, legal and judicial systems including collective bargaining. Trade agreements should not allow foreign corporations to bypass national courts and sue governments in unfair international tribunals over domestic laws, known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).
Core Labour Standards – the incorporation of the eight labour standards contained in ILO Core Conventions with agreed, enforceable arbitration processes through binding trade or economic sanctions in cases of abuse.
Minimum Worker Protections – commitments to protect worker’s rights, raise wages and thereby improve living standards and provide economic stimulus in all signatory countries by defining ‘acceptable conditions of work’ to include a living wage, social protection and occupational health and safety standards.
Labour Mobility – trade agreements should not provide mechanisms that undermine or avoid our domestic immigration regulatory system. These policies and regulations should not be determined by trade agreements, but through domestic processes which include broader considerations of justice and national interest. This includes maximising local job opportunities and protecting workers from exploitation.
Democratising Negotiations – Trade negotiations are currently conducted in secret, and the text is not made public until after agreements are signed, which weakens democracy. These processes would be greatly improved by transparency, accountability, public discussion, broad participation and use of economic and scientific evidence. Such a process would include the participation of trade unions, civil society and industry (including SME representatives) early in the drafting of mandates and positions for trade negotiations.
Transparency – Beginning with a clear outline of the intent and aims of entering trade negotiations before they have begun, offers and draft texts of trade negotiations should be made public throughout the process, with the final text to be made public and debated by Parliament before signing.
Evaluation – detailed public cost benefit evaluation of the probable impacts of any prospective trade deal by independent experts to be undertaken and made public prior to signing. This evaluation must include economic, employment, health, social and environmental assessments.
Monitoring and Renegotiation – the introduction of time-limited provisions within agreements so they are subject to renegotiation and renewal to ensure, like with business contracts and much of our existing laws, that they provide an opportunity for review and balanced outcomes as circumstances change.
Public Services – Ensuring that agreements do not provide ways to undermine (e.g. privatisation) the provision of reliable and affordable services that are provided for essential public services such as water, electricity, health and education to Australian communities.
Health and Medicines – Trade must not impact on the decisions of domestic health regulators such as the PBS or decrease timely access to affordable medicines, including generic medicines. Market rights of pharmaceutical companies should never over-ride an individual’s right to life and health, nor a sovereign government’s right to implement policies to protect and promote the health rights of citizens through initiatives such as food and beverage or product labelling (i.e. tobacco, alcohol, sugar, salt, country of origin).
Public Services – recognition of the right of sovereign governments to implement rules that preserve rights for national and local choices about the provision of public services.
Domestic Procurement – preserving the ability of governments at all levels favour domestic producers in government or government-funded procurement.
Upholding Australian Standards – ensuring compliance of imported goods or overseas service provers with Australian safety, quality and licensing standards.
Privacy – Recognition of the right of governments to implement regulations that are based on protecting privacy.
Safety of Financial Systems – preserving the right of sovereign governments and parliaments to implement rules which ensure that countries are free to take necessary action to protect their financial systems.
Environment and Climate Change – Ensuring governments have the sovereign right to implement rules and policies designed to deal with the environment, climate change and the transition to a low-carbon future, particularly within the context of action required by signatories to meet global climate targets.
Indigenous Culture – Ensure that agreements protect and enhance Indigenous knowledge systems and culture.