The social benefits of economic ties

Since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, there has been vocal support for a UK-Australia FTA, which could deliver symbolic, as well as economic, benefits. However, in a time of increasing social and economic insecurity, a protectionist agenda has been gaining traction, with many citizens becoming more sceptical about the benefits of free trade. There is an opportunity for both countries to take a proactive approach to this developing trend, designing an FTA that embeds a greater level of social, as well as economic, value.
The paper therefore argues that in addition to a focus on goods and services, an Australia-UK FTA should:

• further the rights and prospects of workers in both countries
• involve transparent communication from governments about any deal’s costs and benefits
• include provisions for trade in goods and services as well as investment and labour mobility
• avoid an investor-state dispute settlement system (ISDS) in order to maintain public support
• include environmental safeguards
• ensure standards of supply chain management to eradicate transgressions of workers’ rights and modern slavery

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