The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has written to the Labor Party today asking them to oppose an upcoming trade agreement. Legislation for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement is in front of Parliament today. ACTU wrote to the Labor caucus this morning to plead for the party to oppose the Bill.
The trade agreement is a regional free trade treaty hoped to build upon Australia’s existing agreements with 14 nations within the Indo-Pacific region. The agreement would cover trade across a broad spectrum of areas.
Negotiations for the agreement commence in November 2012. The RCEP is intended to span across all Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) nations and their free trade agreement partners.
ASEAN countries covered by the agreement are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Their free trade agreement partners—thus covered under the RCEP—are Australia, China, Japan, India, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.
According to The Guardian, all members of the Labor Party caucus received a letter this morning written and signed by Michele O’Neil, the President of ACTU. The letter implored the caucus to oppose the RCEP agreement in Parliament.
ACTU explains their opposition to the RCEP is two-fold:
“Support for RCEP will legitimise Myanmar’s brutal military dictatorship on the world stage,” wrote Ms O’Neil.
ACTU also has concerns for the impacts ratification of the Bill may have on vulnerable workers.
“Ratification of RCEP may also prevent the Australian Government from effectively regulating Aged Care, including by implementing the important recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission,” continued the letter.
In April of this year, ACTU published a media release ‘condemning’ the Morrison Government for continuing with the agreement following seizure of the nation by the Burmese military in February.
The Parliament of Australia published a media release in September of this year pushing for ratification of the agreement.
“Accounting for almost one-third of the world’s population and GDP, it is anticipated RCEP’s broad membership and simplified trading standards will facilitate growing supply-chain integration and closer regional economic integration,” said Dave Sharma, Liberal MP in the media release.
The Morrison Government hopes to ratify and pass RCEP legislation by the end of this year.