News today that the European Union and Australia are set to commence free trade agreement negotiations are notable for what is non-negotiable – specifically, any inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement provisions.
“These negotiations are an opportunity for Australia to break with the past and improve how trade deals are done. Australia should follow the EU’s example by committing to making the process more transparent and dropping our insistence on including insidious ISDS clauses,” Australian Greens trade spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
“The EU’s position on ISDS provisions shows that Australia is an attractive investment opportunity whether or not we let foreign corporations sue us if we change our laws.
“If ISDS is a bad idea in Europe, it’s a bad idea everywhere.
“When Europe says it doesn’t want ISDS provisions, Malcolm Turnbull says we don’t want them either. When the United States says they’re vital, Malcolm Turnbull says so too.
“Australia deserves leadership that puts Australia’s interests at the heart and centre of economic decision-making, instead of toeing whichever line our trading partners wants of us.
“We shouldn’t be asked to sell out our national sovereignty by signing into law the invitation for foreign multinationals to sue us in some secretive kangaroo court.
“Trade doesn’t mean trading our national interest to corporate interests. We can have trade without trading away our rights.
“Malcolm Turnbull should drop his support for ISDS in the zombie TPP. We don’t want it, and as the negotiation mandate with Australia’s EU FTA shows, we don’t need it.”
BACKGROUND: The European Union has authorised negotiations for a free-trade agreement with Australia. The negotiating directives set out the general objectives to be achieved during negotiations. These directives do not include investor-state dispute settlement provisions. This means they are not considered an objective of the negotiated outcome. In March 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that ISDS between two EU member states was incompatible with EU law, as the provision undermines national sovereignty. Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has previously suggested ISDS provisions “fundamentally protect Australia's interests”, are “a critical part of making sure that we look out for Australia's interests”, and are “part of a modern comprehensive trade deal that protects Australian investment.”