CANBERRA, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) — Legislation surrounding the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) is expected to be fast-tracked through the senate this week, after Opposition Trade Minister endorsed the deal as a step towards “prosperity”.
Speaking in the Senate on Monday, Shadow Trade Minister Penny Wong said legislation required in order for the deal to be approved in Australia would simultaneously protect Australian workers and conditions, while also “delivering jobs” and scope for businesses to grow in the future.
Wong said Labor’s repeals – passed through the lower house last month – did not affect the broader details of the agreement with China, but merely ensures a safeguard for Australian workers.
“Growing, deepening and diversifying the trade relationship with China has the capacity to deliver jobs and prosperity to future generations of Australians,” Wong said.
ChAFTA was previously objecetd by the opposition, which had expressed concerns over visa regulations surrounding foreign projects.
Labor had said that by bringing in cheaper workers from China, large companies could pay them significantly less than the Australian standard.
But the changes to Australia’s legislation will ensure that Australian workers are offered work first, and any workers coming in from China must be licensed and fairly paid as not to undermine Australian pay, conditions and standards.
Also on Monday, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson has moved a motion to limit what the investor state dispute clause (ISDS) covers in relation to ChAFTA.
The proposed changes to the Implementation Bill would allow the government to freely make any changes to any future legislation without the risk of international companies suing the government for an alleged loss of profit because of a law change.
The Turnbull government has publicly expressed its wish for the legislation to be passed before the end of the year, meaning the free trade agreement will come into effect before Jan. 1.
The deal will also result in the removal of a number of tariffs, such as those on Australian beef, dairy and wine coming into China, while Australians will have access to cheaper Chinese goods, such as electricals and homewares.
The agreement was signed by representatives from China and Australia in Canberra in June this year.