Australian Labor Party drops opposition to CPTPP, vows to remove ISDS bilaterally

On September 10, 2018, the Australian Labor Party (Labor) dropped its long-standing opposition to the 11-nation CPTPP, clearing the way for the agreement to pass the Senate. The Australian Greens and the Centre Alliance strongly criticized the move, accusing Labor of selling out. Union representatives—including the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union—also felt betrayed by the party.

In a statement to the House of Representatives, Labor trade spokesman Jason Clare stressed that the party “doesn’t support the inclusion of ISDS clauses in trade agreements,” but highlighted that the CPTPP extended ISDS to Canada only. Australia already has bilateral agreements with ISDS with the other CPTPP partners. If Labor wins the next election, Clare committed to negotiating with Canada to remove the application of the ISDS between the two countries, as was done by New Zealand.

Clare’s statement also expresses Labor’s understanding that “the way Australia negotiates trade agreements needs to change.” He also stated that a Labor government, if elected, will “seek to remove ISDS provisions from existing free trade agreements and legislate so that a future Australian government cannot sign an agreement with such provisions.”