Labor under pressure to block trade deals

UNIONS, churches and aid groups are piling pressure on Labor to block free trade agreements with Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru.

A bipartisan parliamentary committee has given the Indonesia and Hong Kong deals the green light, with an agreement expected to be bundled into legislation with free trade arrangement with Peru.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council and the Australian Conservation Foundation have urged federal opposition and crossbench senators to oppose the bill.

Friends of the Earth Australia, the Public Health Association of Australia and ActionAid Australia have also written to Labor over controversial provisions which allow foreign companies to sue the government.

Investor-state dispute settlement provisions (ISDS) in the Indonesia deal allow foreign firms to take action if they believe their interests have been harmed through law changes.

Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network convenor Patricia Ranald said the government was trying to bundle the deals together to rush them through.

"This gives even less opportunity than usual to scrutinise and debate the merits of each of these three agreements before voting on the legislation," she said on Thursday.

The letters argue ISDS provisions are contrary to the policies of Labor, Greens and Centre Alliance and counter international trends moving away from the clauses.

Dr Ranald said the Indonesia deal also proposed expanding the numbers of temporary workers, which could make them vulnerable to exploitation.

"None of the deals have enforceable commitments by governments to implement labour rights and environmental standards," she said.


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