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Australia

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After two years of negotiations, Australia and Hong Kong signed two agreements on 26 March 2019: the Australia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (AHFTA), and a new Investment Agreement (IA), replacing an initial one signed in 1993, which was the basis of the claims made in the unsuccessful challenge of Australia’s plain packaging laws in 2012-2015. Both jurisdictions have been active in FTA negotiations. This is the fourth trade deal signed by the Hong Kong government…

CPTPP, trade and investment, Asia Pacific, customs, rules of origin, cumulationThe 11 parties to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement who remained following the withdrawal of the United States have set March 8th in Chile as the date for signing the successor to that agreement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“CPTPP”). Once ratified by at least six (6) of the 11 parties, the CPTPP will enter into force.  Below is a synopsis of what has changed in the new agreement and an overview of opportunities for businesses operating in the CPTPP area.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was hailed as a visionary trade deal — connecting economies across the world as far as Japan and Chile, and pushing forward high standards on labour and the environment and removal of non-tariff barriers to trade. Yet political developments have meant the TPP as agreed cannot be implemented. President Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the TPP in January 2017. As currently drafted, the TPP requires 85% of the parties’ GDP for implementation and the 85% threshold cannot be met without the United States.

The United States withdrawal from the TPP has left a vacuum in global trade leadership. However, Asia Pacific is not standing still and waiting for the United States to implement its “free but fair trade” trade policy agenda. There have been significant movements forward for free trade in Asia Pacific without the United States.

Australia is considering whether to adopt modern slavery legislation, similar to that found in the United Kingdom (UK) and California .  “Modern slavery” has been identified as including slavery, forced labour and wage exploitation, involuntary servitude, debt bondage, human trafficking, forced marriage and other slavery-like exploitation occurring today.

A current federal parliamentary Committee inquiry into the matter has received strong interest from a broad group including retailers, financial institutions, governments, not-for-profit organisations, universities, law firms, individuals and other interested parties. Supply chain transparency is a key area of focus for the inquiry, including requirements for relevant parties to report that their global supply chains are free of slavery and human trafficking.