Free Trade Alliances

Trade alliances are when two or more nations agree on the terms of trade between them. They determine the tariffs and duties that countries impose on imports and exports. All trade alliances affect international trade. Imports are goods and services produced in a foreign country and bought by domestic residents.

Free Trade Agreements – FTA

Free trade agreements (FTAs) are treaties between two or more countries that benefit Australian importers, exporters, producers and investors by reducing and eliminating certain barriers to international trade and investment. Globally, there are more than 3,000 bilateral or multilateral agreements that govern global trade and investment. They are designed to increase economic growth, motivate a more dynamic business climate, technical transfer, foreign investment and lower government spending.

The biggest criticism of free trade agreements is that they lead to inequality, that they are responsible for job outsourcing frequently without adequate labour protections, with women and children often subjected to grueling factory jobs in sub-standard conditions. Emerging market countries often don’t have many environmental protections.

Gender and the FTAs

Governments are now recognising that trade agreements may have an adverse impact on women’s human rights. Commonly, women have less capital, and more likely to be working in the informal sector, and are subject to the often, discriminatory effects of agreements that reduce public expenditure in health, education, agriculture and utilities.

The Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee has noted that States must not just focus on preventing direct discrimination or enabling equality of opportunities. They must create substantive equality – “an enabling environment to achieve equality of results. Nations must address indirect forms of discrimination where, neutral policy decisions lead to unequal outcomes and widen gender and other inequality gaps.”

Australia’s FTAs

Australia has entered into FTAs with both individual countries and groups of countries.  A number of other agreements are currently under negotiation.

Australia has ten FTAs currently in force with China, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, USA, Chile, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Malaysia. Australia concluded negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in October 2015. Other FTAs include those concluded but not yet in force, others under negotiation and prospective negotiation.  There are Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnerships, which are not yet in force. The Trade Portfolio is overseen by Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Tourism and Investment.

FTAs and the SDGs

Trade issues are addressed in a limited way in the 2030 Agenda. SDG 17 (Targets 17.10, 17.11 and 17.12), as well as SDG 2, SDG 10 and SDG 14, have meant that though some of these targets are good and well-intended, critical issues have not been addressed. Moreover, the collective scope of these targets, designed to be inter-related and interlinked remains limited and often bypasses the real issues that global trade and in particular, developing and least developed countries, face today.

Australian Treaties Database

The Australian Treaties Database (ATD) is an online resource for treaties to which Australia is a signatory, or where Australia has taken other treaty action.

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