(Australian Associated Press)
Australia’s parliament has ticked off free trade agreements with Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham believes the deals will lead to better access to growing markets for Australian farmers and steelmakers.
The government has also noted exchange of services and businesses, with the deals expected to come into force in the first half of next year.
The trio of trade pacts had bipartisan support, with Labor backing the coalition to waive the deals through parliament on Tuesday.
Most crossbench senators including the Greens fiercely opposed the legislation because the deals contain investor state dispute settlement provisions.
These clauses allow multinational corporations to sue foreign governments if the firms believe domestic law changes have harmed their interests.
Despite condemnation from the union movement, Labor argues it secured safeguards on the provisions around health, safety, environmental and banking reforms.
Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie also slammed the opposition for backing the deals.
“For it to come from Labor, I tell you what, it’s a pathetic day for Australia,” she told parliament.
“These provisions shouldn’t exist at all. It just isn’t right. No one should be willing to let multinational corporations hold our government to ransom.”
Senator Birmingham said similar provisions had been in force with other countries for 30 years and Australia had never been successfully sued under them.
“The government believes these remain valid mechanism to help to facilitate the flow of investment across international borders where laws are inconsistent,” he told parliament.
“They are widely used internationally and widely respected by international law-making body.”
Greens senator Jordon Steele-John raised concerns there wasn’t adequate labour market testing in the Indonesia agreement.
The Electrical Trades Union has pulled funding from Labor over its support for the trade deals.