Australia will sign a new agreement covering $18.8 billion in free trade with Hong Kong on Tuesday, as Labor prepares to officially back the Australia-Indonesia free trade deal if it wins government.
Time has run out for the Coalition to secure the passage of the Indonesia deal before the next election, with the $16 billion agreement stuck before the joint standing committee on treaties and only three sitting days left, leaving farmers, universities and producers nervous that it could be torn up if Bill Shorten wins in May.
But momentum inside Labor has shifted since Friday, with senior frontbenchers now preparing to declare the deal is in the “national interest” after reviewing its details, despite mounting union pressure on job security for Australian workers.
The opposition will still push for investor-state dispute settlement clauses to be removed from the agreement. The clauses give corporations the right sue governments in international tribunals if they believe legislation changes will harm their investment and have been criticised for allowing tobacco giants to sue over changes to Australia’s plain packaging laws.