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Australia-Japan Free Trade Agreement - A bad deal should be stopped

22 May 2007

Australia-Japan Free Trade Agreement- A bad deal should be stopped

Joint Statement from Australian and Japanese people

We, the undersigned people and organisations, believe that the Australia Japan Free
Trade Agreement (FTA) will not bring real benefits to the people of Australia and Japan.

A joint government Feasibility Study claimed that an FTA would deliver benefits to
both countries, but was based on unrealistic assumptions and poor economic modelling.

The Feasibility Study also failed to consider potential social and environmental impacts,
and how these could affect people, workers and farmers.

Given that Australia and Japan already have a strong trading relationship; the predicted
economic benefits are unlikely; and that social and environmental costs have not been
considered, we believe that the negotiations of this FTA should not take place. Instead,
we believe there is a need to rethink multi lateral trade rules and develop a global
trading system based on real development, fairness, democracy, and sustainability.


We are concerned about agricultural issues in the agreement. Japanese farmers in
particular will be heavily affected by ‘full liberalisation’ of agriculture, as Japan
currently has agricultural tariffs of up to 700 percent in order to protect rural farmers
and a sensitive agricultural industry. The livelihood of small farmers in Japan would be
severely threatened by lower cost imports. In Australia there has already been a
significant decrease in small family farms as a result of global competition and
structural adjustments.

Consumers in both countries also seriously concerned that the large numbers of FTAs
being negotiated could lead to pressures to reduce food safety standards and could in the
future promote the global distribution of GM crops.

Trade agreements should not undermine farmer’s livelihoods. Instead, a global
agricultural system should be based on food sovereignty, rural development and
protecting farmer’s livelihoods.

Environment and Global Warming

We are concerned that Feasibility Study did not make reference to UN Multilateral
Environmental Agreements. Any proposed agreement between Australia and Japan
should thoroughly examine environmental issues and include legally binding
commitments by Australia and Japan to ensure compliance with international
environmental standards.

Of further concern is the Study’s conclusion that an FTA should include a minerals and
energy chapter to ensure ‘energy security’. It is difficult to understand why a trade
agreement is needed to address issues of supply security when this is dealt with by
supply contracts between companies. The Australian government provides no assistance
to the coal industry in the form of subsidies or export controls, and Japan maintains a
generally open trade policy on minerals and energy, therefore an FTA will not impact on
trade in energy and resources.

The coal industry is being encouraged to expand at a multi billion dollar rate, leading to
devastating global warming and environmental consequences. Nuclear energy is also
being promoted despite the unresolved problems of risks of accidents, waste disposal
and increased spread of nuclear weapons. The focus should instead be on investing in
alternative renewable energy, including provisions to mitigate impacts of trade on global

Essential Services

Essential services, such as health, water and education, should be excluded from the
FTA. Both governments should maintain the right to regulate essential services to
ensure equitable access for all, and to meet social and environmental goals.

Of particular concern is the ‘GATS plus’ commitment outlined in the Feasibility Study.
Australia and Japan are already making commitments on services under GATS, and to
make commitments beyond this is very alarming as it suggests both governments are
not prioritising protecting services for the national interest, but rather advocating that
they be open to transnational service providers on a profit driven basis.

Public services should be clearly excluded from trade agreements.

Human rights and Labour rights

We are concerned that the Feasibility Study did not include an analysis of the current
state of compliance by both Australia and Japan with human rights and labour
standards, including the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on
Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Any proposed agreement between Australia and Japan should thoroughly examine these
issues and include legally binding commitments by Australia and Japan to ensure
compliance with human rights and labour standards by investors, including effective
monitoring mechanisms and penalties for non-compliance.

Public consultation and debate

We are concerned about the effectiveness and the transparency of the public
consultation process employed in the Joint Feasibility Study.

Both governments should commit to effective and transparent community consultation
about proposed trade agreements, with sufficient time frames to allow informed public
debate about potential impacts on life, work and the environment.

It is important that there is a clear set of principles and objectives that guide both
governments in the consultation processes for the FTA, and include regular
consultations with unions, farmers, community organisations and the public.

We oppose the Australia- Japan FTA, and the proliferation of bilateral trade agreements
around the world that will only result in unequal agreements that will not deliver
benefits to the majority of people.

We believe that multilateral trade rules must be redeveloped towards an inclusive,
democratic global trade system that delivers real economic development, and allows
governments to retain their right to regulate in the public interest.

Signed in May 2007 by Consumers Union of Japan and 23 Japanese organisations, as
well as 90 Australian organisations and networks.

 source: CUJ