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Commission warns of free trade threat

Melbourne's Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace has raised concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the current closed negotiations for the proposed free trade agreement between Australia and the United States.

The Commission has raised its concerns in a new briefing paper released yesterday in association with Liberty Victoria.

The paper, titled The Big Chill': Concerns about the Investor/State Provisions in the Proposed Australia - US Free Trade Agreement, calls for Parliament to scrutinise the agreement before it is signed in December.

It points out that foreign companies will be able to sue the Australian Government under the likely dispute resolution mechanisms of the proposed free trade agreement. It says that based on free trade legal cases brought in North America, legal action could occur against Australia if foreign companies believe they are losing profits as a result of local environmental and social laws and programs.

"Given that the current negotiations have been closed to the public, the proposed agreement must be subjected to the full scrutiny of parliament before it is signed," said CCJDP executive officer Marc Purcell.

"The US Congress has the right to scrutinise, debate and vote on any trade agreement and has a 90-day period for congressional review. If full public disclosure of the deal before signing is good enough for Americans, it should be good enough for Australia."

Foreign Companies Could Sue Australia -- Catholic Commission for Justice, Development & Peace (Catholic Commission for Justice, Development & Peace - Archdiocese of Melbourne)

'The Big Chill?' Concerns about the Investor/State Provisions in the proposed Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace - Archdiocese of Melbourne)
Free trade alarm between America and Australia (Herald-Sun)
Commission condemns free trade deal for war on Iraq (14/11/02)
Commission says Howard looking at free trade reward for war (18/5/03)

31 Oct 2003