The China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) is a major deal, but there is little public understanding of its content. Much of the coverage of ChAFTA in the corporate media has focused on its benefits for business and its impact on Australia. But ChAFTA has far reaching consequences for working people in both countries. The Chinese and Australian governments signed off on ChAFTA on June 17. But before it can come into effect, both the Australian and Chinese governments need to pass enabling legislation.
China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA)
More than 800 workers gathered in Bicentennial Park on August 23 to protest against the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement in a rally organised by the Electrical Trades Union (ETU). ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks told the crowd Chinese companies need invest only 15% in a project worth at least $150 million to be able to bring in workers from overseas who are not subject to labour market testing. For as little as $22.5 million, a Chinese investor in a joint venture with an Australian company can avoid paying Australian wages and conditions.
The union movement’s opposition to the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) has ratcheted up since the agreement was signed in Canberra on June 17. ChAFTA allows for 95% of Australian exports to China to be tariff free. These will include many agricultural products, including beef and dairy. In addition, there will be liberalisation of market access for the Australia's services sector, and investments by private companies from China under A$1.078 billion will not be subject to Foreign Investment Review Board approval.