The 'Labour' chapter of the CPTPP as neoliberal regulation


The 'Labour' chapter of the CPTPP as neoliberal regulation

Melbourne Law School
Room 920, Level 9

Carlton VIC 3053

185 Pelham Street

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The Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is the most significant trade agreement to be completed in recent times, with its signatories including Australia representing 13.5% of global GDP. Indeed, there is the possibility that its significance growing with Indonesia and United Kingdom considering joining the CPTPP.

Australian workers might have cause to welcome the CPTPP: its 'Labour' chapter has been hailed as providing 'the strongest protections for workers of any trade agreement in history.' Yet, what is strongest might still be weak; the highest standards might nevertheless be pitched too low.

This presentation argues that this 'Labour' chapter is a form of neoliberal regulation - faux regulation. It stands forth as an example of such legalised minimalism for three reasons. First, it provides for flexible standards particularly through its reliance on rights recognised in the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Second, it lays down standards for flexibility through non-existent standards, liquid-soft obligations, and heavily qualified obligations. Third, the parties appear to have constructed a system of Mutually Assured Non-Compliance.

This presentation is based on the submission by Joo-Cheong Tham and K D Ewing to the inquiry of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade into the CPTPP.

Hosted by the Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law and the Global Economic Law Network.

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