31 October 2003

Free trade alarm between America and Australia

A free trade agreement with the US could see foreign companies suing the Australian Government for loss of profits from domestic laws and programs, according to new research.

A report to be released today by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and Liberty Victoria says there has been an explosion of litigation against governments under the North American FTA.

Private companies have won tens of millions of dollars in compensation after suing the US, Canadian and Mexican governments over domestic social and environmental laws.

Anne O'Rourke, of Liberty Victoria, said claims by companies against governments had run to more than $38 billion since the NAFTA was signed in 1992.

The Canadian Government has been ordered to pay $38.6 million in damages, and the Mexican Government has had to pay out $26 million.

They have argued that domestic laws have reduced their profit-making ability.

'We don't want this sort of thing happening in Australia under a free trade agreement with the US,' Ms O'Rourke said.

High-profile cases include a $228.6 million claim by the US courier company United Parcel Service against Canada Post's public service monopoly, which is still to be decided.

A Canadian company has lodged a $19.4 billion claim against US bans on the disposal of radioactive waste at sea.

In light of these concerns, Liberty Victoria and the CCJDP will call for more transparency about negotiations and public input before the FTA is finalised.

I'll add a link to the paper when it becomes available. This far the government is refusing to promise that the parliament will have a chance to vote on the US FTA. It is disgraceful that Australia's cosntitution does not require a parliamentary vote before a treaty as important as this is implemented.

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