Policies/Foreign Policy and Treaty Making

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Official Party Document
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Treaties

Like all legal mechanisms, treaties derive legitimacy through consent and consultation. In recent years, however, treaty negotiations have become progressively more secretive. Treatymaking has become more exclusionary, and repeated requests for serious analysis of costs and benefits around preferential trade deals have been ignored.[1] The Productivity Commission has recently warned, "Preferential trade agreements add to the complexity, and cost of international trade through substantially different sets of rules of origin, varying coverage of services and potentially costly intellectual property protections and investor-state dispute settlement provisions".[2]

Recent preferential trade deals have included protectionist poison pills in the form of stronger IP laws, which open the way to corporate rent-seeking[3] and inflated prices for essentials such as medicine.[4][5] Other preferential trade deals have contained mandates for monitoring of internet use and surveillance,[6] or have introduced new rights for corporations to sue governments.[7].

None of this is necessary for true free trade. Free trade should be encouraged for the enormous economic benefits it brings, especially to developing countries. Trade provides an incentive for countries to engage with each other for their mutual benefit, laying the groundwork for broader co-operation and peace. Tariffs, often described as a tax on overseas producers, are in truth a tax on ourselves, offering little more than higher prices and protracted deaths to the industries they "protect". The best and simplest way to support trade is not through complex trade treaties which remove Australians rights, but through simple, unilateral removal of trade barriers and tariffs. This is the course which the Productivity Commission and virtually all serious economists recommend.[8]

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Support principles of transparency and openness in treaties and trade agreements

  • Ensure treaty negotiations are subject to oversight and public participation.
    • Require a window for public participation and the availability of draft texts prior to signing.
  • Conduct a constitutional referendum to require parliamentary oversight and consent in treaty making and other international instruments.
  • Renegotiate or withdraw from treaties which unduly restrict policy including:
    • Treaties which bind Australia to economically harmful intellectual property laws. These include the Berne Convention, WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA).
    • Treaties which oblige Australia to adopt failed models of drug prohibition. These include the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
  • Ban inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement provisions and ensure foreign businesses retain equivalent legal protections to domestic businesses.
  • Ensure Australia complies fully with all treaty clauses which protect individual rights.
    • Remove exceptions granted to Australia which potentially reduce the capacity of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to protect Australian citizens.[9]
  • Begin negotiations on an international treaty to enshrine net neutrality, freedom of the internet from state control, and protection for private communication, free expression, and unrestricted access to information.

References

  1. Productivity Commission, Research report - Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements, November 2010, page xx, http://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/104203/trade-agreements-report.pdf (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  2. Productivity Commission, Trade and Assistance Review 2013-14, page 2, http://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/trade-assistance/2013-14/trade-assistance-review-2013-14.pdf (Accessed 6 July 2016)
  3. Productivity Commission, Research report - Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements, November 2010, page 88, http://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/104203/trade-agreements-report.pdf (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  4. Wikileaks - US and Japan Lead Attack on Affordable Cancer Treatments, https://wikileaks.org/tpp-ip2/attack-on-affordable-cancer-treatments.html (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  5. A Blank Cheque for Abuse, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Pages 1-2, http://www.msfaccess.org/sites/default/files/MSF_assets/Access/Docs/Access_Briefing_ACTABlankCheque_ENG_2012.pdf (Accessed 8 July 2013)
  6. Article 27, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/topics-domaines/ip-pi/acta-text-acrc.aspx?lang=eng#chapter2_sect5 (Accessed 8 July 2013)
  7. ISDS: the devil in the trade detail, ABC Radio National, http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/isds-the-devil-in-the-trade-deal/5734490 (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  8. Productivity Commission, Trade and Assistance Review 2013-14, page 21, http://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/trade-assistance/2013-14/trade-assistance-review-2013-14.pdf (Accessed 6 July 2016)
  9. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights", http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/treaties/1980/23.html (Accessed July 9 2013)