ANTI-TRADE MYTHS PUNCTURED BY REALITY

Two of the favourite myths propagated by Australian anti-trade campaigners have been busted. 

Myth number one is that investment provisions in trade agreements mean multinational companies will dismantle Australian public policy in areas like health, education and environmental protection. 

Yet now it has been reported that the World Trade Organization has dismissed a complaint against Australia’s tobacco plain packaging legislation by Philip Morris. 

This follows the failure of an earlier Philip Morris challenge under investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions in Australia’s investment treaty with Hong Kong. 

ISDS provisions are a favourite bogeyman of the anti-trade crowd. 

Yet there has never been a single successful ISDS complaint against Australia in the 29 years that these provisions have been included in trade and investment agreements. 

The latest outcome on plain packaging confirms that the scare campaigns over investment and ISDS are groundless. 

Myth number two is that “movement of persons” provisions in the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) would open the floodgates for foreign workers to enter Australia. 

Yet now Immigration statistics show that the number of 457 visas granted to Chinese workers actually fell under ChAFTA. 

The figures show that in 2016, the first 12 months after ChAFTA came into effect, 2,781 primary 457 visas were granted to Chinese nationals. 

By contrast, in the 12 months before ChAFTA came into effect, there were 3,270 primary 457 visas granted to Chinese nationals. 

The 15 per cent decline in 457 visas granted to Chinese nationals under ChAFTA was double the decline in the overall numbers of primary 457 visas granted to workers of all nationalities between 2015 and 2016. 

This before and after reality check shows the anti-foreign worker scare campaign over ChAFTA was not only xenophobic but completely baseless. 

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