AFTINET | 1 June 2022
New Trade Minister and Assistant Minister have mandate for progressive reform of Australia’s trade policy
1 June, 2022: The newly appointed Minister for Trade, Senator Don Farrell, and the Assistant Minister, Senator Tim Ayers, have a mandate for the reform of Australia’s secretive trade negotiation process to ensure transparency and accountability.
Prior to the election, the Labor Party committed to a progressive trade platform that “must be consistent with Australia’s social and economic values, be based on widespread consultation, provide for appropriate minimum and enforceable labour and environmental standards, take account of social and economic impacts and allow sovereign governments to make decisions and implement policies in the interests of their citizens.”
“Labor in government will not enter into, and will prohibit through legislation, trade arrangements that undermine the Australian government’s capacity to govern in the interest of all Australians.”
This policy commits Labor to oppose corporate rights to sue governments (ISDS), stronger medicine and copyright monopolies, provisions for deregulation of public services, and the removal of labour market testing for temporary migrant workers. The policy supports enforceable labour rights and environmental standards in trade agreements, the release of negotiating texts, and independent economic and social evaluation of agreements.
Senators Farrell and Ayers will face a number of early tests of Labor’s promises. Chief among them will be whether the new government will actively support and co-sponsor a comprehensive proposal at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that would temporarily lift patent monopolies on COVID19 medicines, as Labor urged the previous government to do.
The new ministers must also work to improve trade deals signed by the previous government with the UK and India, which Labor criticised as failing to protect workers’ rights and for being negotiated with “zero consultation.”
AFTINET has written to welcome the new ministers and to request a meeting to discuss how a Labor government could implement a trade justice agenda in the new term of parliament.
AFTINET will argue that following the election of a diverse and progressive parliament, Australia’s trade policy must reflect voters’ concerns about climate action, gender equality, and workers’ rights.