Friday, May 31, 2024

Choice: safety and labelling laws under threat

The consumer watchdog has called on the Minister for Trade to opt out of clauses in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which it says could see future food labelling and product safety laws ditched under legal pressure from multinational companies.

The TPP trade agreement, which is currently being considered by federal Parliament, will enforce Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions and stands to impact every aspect of the Australian economy.

In its submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Choice urged the federal Government to stand strong and defend Australia’s sovereign law-making abilities.

“This agreement threatens future laws to protect and inform consumers about the products and services they purchase,” Choice CEO Alan Kirkland said.

“Laws that require food companies to list specific ingredients, meaningful country-of-origin statements, and health and nutritional information on food packaging could all be on the chopping block.

“It’s particularly concerning that in other jurisdictions, ISDS provisions have been used to oppose bans of potentially dangerous products, overriding a country’s domestic laws designed to protect the public.

“Effectively, the federal Government is providing a veto on our domestic law-making ability to international corporations and foreign legal tribunals.”

Analysis by Choice has found that the ISDS clause in the TPP could let foreign companies take action against Australia should the federal Government change laws or regulations to:

  • Require specific-ingredient labelling on food products, such as palm oil.
  • Change or strengthen our country-of-origin labelling system.
  • Require the display of ‘health stars’ or ‘traffic lights’ on the front of packaged foods.
  • Ban the import of products that are dangerous or potentially dangerous.
  • Improve the Australian Consumer Law to, for example, ban unfair trading or to strengthen consumer guarantees.

“We are urging MPs and senators to oppose any TPP legislation until the risks associated with ISDS are dealt with,” Mr Kirkland said.

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