Press Release: AFTINET
"After all the positive news about access for Australian farmers
to Chinese markets, the government summary of the China-Australia
Free trade agreement briefly mentions that it includes special rights for foreign investors to
sue governments for damages if a change in domestic law can be
claimed to harm their investment, known as ISDS," Dr Patricia
Ranald, Coordinator of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment
Network (AFTINET) said today.
"We could face a scenario where Chinese investors could sue
local, State or Federal governments for damages over a change in
environmental or other regulation. We have also opposed this
provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement with the US,
Japan and nine other Pacific Rim countries, because ISDS is clearly
against the national interest," said Dr Ranald.
"The Philip Morris tobacco company is currently using such
rights in an obscure Australia-Hong Kong investment agreement to
sue the Australian government over plain packaging legislation,
despite the fact that the Australian High Court found that they
were not entitled to compensation under Australian law. Australian
High Court Chief Justice French has recently
criticised the impact of ISDS cases on national court decisions,"
said Dr Ranald.
"The reports of three Australian Parliamentary
inquiries show that these international tribunals lack the
independence and consistency of national legal systems They are
made up of investment law experts who can be lawyers one month and
arbitrators the next, and there is no system of precedents or
appeals, resulting in inconsistent decisions which generally favour
investors," added Dr Ranald.
"Claimed 'safeguards' for health and environment legislation in
ISDS clauses in recent agreements have not prevented foreign
investors from suing governments over health and environmental
laws. The US Lone Pine mining company is sing the Québec provincial
government over environmental regulation of gas mining. The Eli
Lilly pharmaceutical company is suing the Canadian national
government because of a court decision refusing a patent. And the
French company the Veolia is suing the Egyptian government over a
contract dispute which includes a rise in the minimum wage for
workers," said Dr Ranald.
"It is a predictable pattern with this government that we have a
grand announcement that deal has been completed but the text
remains secret and the details cannot be scrutinised. All we have
is the government's own summary which emphasises the positives.
With trade agreements, the devil is always in the detail. We call
for the full text of the China free trade agreement to be released
well before it is signed for public and parliamentary scrutiny,"
said Dr Ranald.