Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation between the Government of the Italian Republic and the Government of Australia; Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Federative Republic of Brazil for Cooperation on Science, Technology and Innovation
This Chapter reviews two treaty actions: the Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation between the Government of the Italian Republic and the Government of Australia (the Italy Agreement), and the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Federative Republic of Brazil for Cooperation on Science, Technology and Innovation (the Brazil Agreement).
The Italy Agreement was signed in Canberra on 22 May 2017. The Brazil Agreement was signed in Canberra on 7 September 2017. The two Agreements were tabled in the Parliament on 8 May 2018.
The two Agreements propose to strengthen the science, technology and innovation relationships between Australia and Brazil and Italy, respectively.
The Agreements provide formal frameworks to support strong and productive scientific and technological relationships. They will also set out principles for the management of collaborative activities, including cost sharing and allocation of benefits.
Reasons for Australia to take the treaty actions
The National Interest Analysis (NIA) documents explain that bringing the Agreements into force will reinforce Australia’s commitment to international cooperation in scientific and technological fields. Science and innovation are central to Australia’s economic policy in delivering economic growth, productivity and job creation, as reflected in the National Innovation and Science Agenda.
The NIA documents suggest that the intent of the Agreements is to guide the conduct of the relationships between Australia and the two countries. They include provisions for shared responsibility in collaborative activities, and equitable sharing of the costs and benefits associated with collaboration. The Agreements may expand opportunities for collaboration and may be important for enhancing formal links between researchers and organisations.
The Agreements set out Cooperative Activities which individuals and organisations from each country may undertake. Such activities include, but are not limited to, joint research and development programs, exchanges of scientific and technological information, exchanges of individual researchers, students and other appropriate personnel, conferences, seminars and workshops and other forms of cooperative activities as may be agreed.
The NIA states that Italy is an important strategic partner for Australia’s international cooperation in science and innovation, with strengths in the physical sciences, particularly astronomy and astrophysics. Italy is a key partner in the multilateral Square Kilometre Array Project.
Italy was Australia’s 8th ranked joint publication partner with over 8,000 joint publications during the period 2011–2015. Australia was Italy’s 11th. The top research fields for joint publications were clinical medicine, physical sciences and astronomy, biological sciences, basic medical research, earth and related environmental sciences.
The NIA states that Brazil and Australia share similar economic, resources and environmental challenges and opportunities, making Brazil an important collaboration partner for Australia in the future.
Brazil was Australia’s 18th ranked joint publication partner with over 800 joint publications during the period 2011–2015. Australia was Brazil’s 9th ranked partner over the same period. The top research fields for joint publications were clinical medicine, health sciences, basic medical research, agriculture, forestry and fisheries and psychology. Brazil also has strengths in mining and resources management.
To promote collaboration, the Brazil Agreement sets out cooperative activities which individuals and organisations from Australia and Brazil may undertake. Such activities include, but are not limited to, joint research, work plans and projects, exchanges of scientific and technological information, exchanges of individual researchers, students and other appropriate personnel, conferences, seminars and workshops and other forms of cooperative activities as may be agreed.
The NIA documents explain that the Agreements oblige the Parties to strengthen their overall science and technological relationships by promoting cooperation in all areas of science, technology and innovation in accordance with their respective domestic laws and regulations.
Articles 7 of the Italy Agreement obliges entities undertaking cooperative activities to take all necessary steps to ensure that their legal and commercial positions are adequately and effectively protected. The Article also covers the dissemination of scientific and technological information.
Article 8 provides that the protection and ownership of intellectual property rights will be the responsibility of and jointly decided by, the cooperating organisations.
Article 9 obliges parties to use their best efforts to facilitate the entry and exit from each territory of personnel material and equipment.
Article 6 of the Brazil Agreement enables the Parties to designate a Joint Committee for Cooperation on Science, Technology and Innovation to facilitate the implementation of the Agreement.
Article 7 obliges cooperating entities to negotiate and conclude arrangements to implement cooperative activities as necessary. Article 8 considers the facilitation of entry and exit from each territory of personnel material and equipment. Articles 6, 7 and 9 consider intellectual property and sharing information matters.
The NIA documents state that Australia’s obligations under both Agreements can be implemented without new legislation or amendment to existing legislation. Australian practice is already consistent with the provisions of the Agreements.
The NIA documents state the Agreements do not commit Australia to any financial outlays.
The NIA for the Brazil Agreement explained that any costs related to the establishment of a Joint Committee will be absorbed through existing departmental budgets.
The Committee noticed some minor wording differences between the two Agreements, particularly concerning cooperation objectives and principles.
Article 5 of the Brazil Agreement states that defence-related science technology and innovation activities are excluded from areas of cooperation.
Article 2 of the Italy Agreement specifies that the Parties shall promote cooperation for peaceful purposes.
However, there is no clause or article in the Italy Agreement specifically excluding defence-related activities as there is in the Brazil Agreement.
The phrase ‘for peaceful purposes’ does not appear in the Brazil Agreement.
In 2017, the Committee considered and reported on the Agreement relating to Scientific and Technical Cooperation between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America. Article 4 of that Agreement states that the Parties shall support cooperative activities for peaceful purposes. Any phrase particularly excluding defence-related activities is not evident.
The Committee questioned representatives of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS) about the exclusion of defence-related matters. DIIS explained:
It’s a standard clause that we include in all of our science and innovation agreements in some form or measure. Sometimes the wording’s a little different but it’s always for peaceful purposes. Defence related collaboration is not in our remit.
The Committee pursued the issue, seeking further clarification on the separation of cooperation activities. DIIS elaborated, using the recent United States treaty as an example:
That treaty, equally, has the clause that, basically, it’s for peaceful purposes. So it’s a division in terms of the legal instruments that we have science and technology treaties that just cover peaceful purposes, and then where it has a defence element it’s done under a different agreement through a different structure. I think it’s one of those things where it becomes more complicated when you bring the defence issue in. Generally, we want to do overarching science and technology agreements and have those as a framework. Of course, if they want there to be collaboration around defence science and technology … it’s under separate agreements.
To the casual observer, in particular those with no broader knowledge of the minor technical wording details of such agreements, it would appear that the specific exclusion of defence-related activities applied to the Brazil Agreement only, and not the Italy Agreement.
The Committee appreciates the clarification provided by DIIS concerning the wording of the Agreements. Further, the Committee would prefer agreements of a similar nature, such as the two under consideration here, to have consistency of language. This would remove any doubt about the meaning of objectives, principles or other matters in any similar or comparable agreements.
The Committee acknowledges and appreciates the support for these Agreements documented in submissions provided by the Australian Academy of Science.
The Committee supports the Agreements and recommends that binding treaty action be taken.
The Committee supports the Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation between the Government of the Italian Republic and the Government of Australia and recommends that binding treaty action be taken.
The Committee supports the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Federative Republic of Brazil for Cooperation on Science, Technology and Innovation and recommends that binding treaty action be taken.