Senate debates

Wednesday, 15 August 2018


Joint Standing Committee on Treaties; Report

4:39 pm

Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to make a statement concerning report 180 of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, which has just been tabled. The report deals with seven treaty actions, including the Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the Timor boundaries treaty and two scientific technical cooperation agreements.

The Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement is intended to open new trade and investment opportunities for Australia. Negotiations for PAFTA were entered into in the wake of the collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and in tandem with the negotiations for the TPP-11. The committee is also currently reviewing TPP-11, and PAFTA is expected to provide better market access than that agreement. We found that many of the issues raised in this inquiry were also addressed in the TPP-11 inquiry. We've chosen to review those common issues in more detail in our report on the TPP-11.

With regard to trade agreements, the committee acknowledges the ongoing concerns caused by the continuing proliferation of these agreements with the same partners. The complexity of entering into these agreements—what is now called 'the noodle-bowl effect'—may in fact be hindering businesses from taking full advantage of the opportunities presented. We encourage DFAT and other relevant departments and organisations to continue developing and providing practical assistance to Australian businesses to understand and access these markets.

The EU framework agreement formalises a range of existing bilateral cooperation dialogue processes between Australia and the EU. Although this appears to be an aspirational agreement, the committee recognises the need to reaffirm commitments to high-level political dialogues, shared values and the common principles that underpin the bilateral relationship.

The committee also welcomes the finalisation of the treaty between Australia and Timor-Leste concerning our maritime boundaries. The agreement settles a permanent maritime boundary between Australia and Timor-Leste, bringing certainty after some 50 years of controversy. The committee has taken a continuing interest in the issues raised during this inquiry and notes that, despite reservations, both parties appear satisfied with the outcome. The area is economically important to both countries, and we urge the government to fully support the development of the transitional arrangements designed to support businesses operating in the area.

The agreement with the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization ensures that the Australian patent office remains an international authority. The committee acknowledges the important work done by IP Australia and the Australian patent office for both Australian and international clients.

Finally, the two agreements on scientific technical cooperation—one with Italy and the other with Brazil—re-enforce Australia's commitment to international cooperation in scientific and technological fields with two important partners. The agreements provide formal frameworks to support strong and productive scientific and technological relationships. They also set out the principles for the management of collaborative activities, including cost sharing and the allocation of benefits.

The committee has recommended that all of the six treaty actions be ratified and the binding action be taken in each case. The committee notes that the termination agreement for the previous Peru-Australian investment treaty will happen automatically when the PAFTA comes into effect. The report also contains the committee's review of four minor treaty actions, including a further extension to the agreement with the Netherlands for the purpose of responding to the downing of flight MH17. This agreement ensures that Australian personnel can continue to carry out their important work with regard to that incident. On behalf of the committee, I commend the report to the Senate and seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.