Minor treaty actions
Minor treaty actions are generally technical amendments to existing treaties which do not impact significantly on the national interest.
Minor treaty actions are presented to the Committee with a one-page explanatory statement and are listed on the Committee’s website. The Committee can choose to formally inquire into these treaty actions, or accept them without a formal inquiry and report.
The Committee has been asked to consider the following four minor treaty actions.
Protocol to Amend Annex 2 and Annex 5 of the Thailand—Australia Free Trade Agreement (Protocol)
The Protocol makes minor amendments to the Thailand—Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) to promote the expansion of trade in certain dairy goods. TAFTA is one of two Free Trade Agreements that Australian industry can use to trade with Thailand—the other is the ASEAN—Australia—New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA).
The Protocol provides for amendments to Annex 2 and Annex 5 of TAFTA. Annex 2 contains the tariff schedules, including tariff quotas, of the two countries. Annex 5 lists agricultural products which both countries have nominated as sensitive and which are subject to special safeguard measures.
The Protocol requires Thailand to increase the tariff quotas for skim milk powder set out in Annex 2 of TAFTA by 10 per cent. It also requires Thailand to increase its volume trigger levels for certain dairy products subject to special safeguard measures listed in Annex 5 of TAFTA. Specifically, it would increase the volume trigger levels for imposing special safeguard measures on anhydrous milk fat, whey, cheese and other products by 10, 20 and 10 per cent respectively. These amendments will enable Australian industry to export a greater volume of dairy products to Thailand at preferential tariff rates. There are no obligations on Australia to alter its tariff quotas or volume trigger levels.
Fifth Protocol Establishing the Prolongation of the Treaty between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Australia on the Presence of Australian Personnel in the Netherlands for the Purpose of Responding to the Downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 (Fifth Protocol)
The treaty action prolongs the Treaty between Australia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands on the presence of Australian personnel in the Netherlands for the purpose of responding to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 (the Treaty) for the fifth time, through until 30 June 2019.
Officials are negotiating a permanent successor treaty to cover the continued presence of Australian personnel in the Netherlands. The fifth protocol will ensure continuity of legal coverage pending finalisation of negotiations on the permanent successor treaty and completion of domestic treaty-making requirements, including consideration by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) (the successor treaty will be tabled as a Category 1 treaty action). The practical, legal and financial effects of the proposed treaty action are likely to be negligible, but the benefits to Australian interests are significant.
In response to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, significant numbers of Australian personnel were deployed to the Netherlands to provide assistance in relation to tasks such as the identification of victims and the investigation of the cause of the incident.
The Treaty defines the rights, obligations and arrangements between Australia and the Netherlands necessary to facilitate Australia’s deployment to, and operations in, the Netherlands. It ensures that all deployed personnel are accorded appropriate protections. It was signed in The Hague by Australia and the Netherlands, and entered into force for both parties on 1 August 2014, without following the usual process of review by JSCOT. The entry into force of this Treaty was expedited via the National Interest Exemption mechanism.
Due to Dutch domestic requirements, the duration of the Treaty was limited to twelve months. The Treaty has subsequently been extended four times (respectively to 1 August 2015, 31 December 2016, 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2018). The Fifth Protocol is required to ensure Australian personnel are accorded appropriate protections pending entry into force of the permanent successor treaty. The permanent successor treaty will be put through a Dutch parliamentary procedure, thereby enabling it to be of unlimited duration.
Amendments to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP)
The treaty action concerns Resolution 6.1 (Resolution), adopted on 11 May 2018 by the Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). The Resolution amends the list of species contained in Annex 1 of the Agreement by replacing ‘Ardenna creatopus, syn. Puffinus creatopus’ with ‘Ardenna creatopus’, leaving only Ardenna creatopus as the nomenclature for this petrel species. Annex 1 lists all the species to which the Agreement applies.
The practical, financial and legal effect of the amendment for Australia is negligible. The change in nomenclature for the species reflects an updated understanding about the taxonomy of the species.
The Meeting of the Parties unanimously adopted the Resolution pursuant to Article XIl(S) (Amendment of the Agreement) of the Agreement, which requires amendments to the Annexes to be adopted by a two-thirds majority of Parties.
In accordance with Article XIl(S) of the Agreement, the proposed amendment to Annex 1 will come into force automatically on the ninetieth day after its adoption, namely, on 9 August 2018, except for those Parties that have lodged a reservation in accordance with Article X1I(6). Australia does not propose to lodge a reservation to the Resolution, unless this Category 3 treaty action remains outstanding.
Amendments to the Annex of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocols of 1978 and 1997 relating thereto Amendments to Annex VI (Designation of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea Emission Control Areas for NOx Tier III control) Resolution MEPC.286(71)
The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocols of 1978 and 1997 relating thereto (MARPOL) is one of the key international instruments addressing marine pollution from ships. It is administered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialised agency of the United Nations. The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is the IMO Committee with responsibility for MARPOL.
The treaty action is for Australia’s tacit acceptance of technical amendments to Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocols of 1978 and 1997 relating thereto (MARPOL) relating to Emission Control Areas (ECAs) and Bunker Delivery Note (BDN) information. The amendments: designate two new ECAs (the Baltic Sea and the North Sea) for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions; provide for temporary exemptions from the NOx emission limits in a limited set of circumstances; make minor consequential amendments to the Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships; and revise the information to be provided in the BDN.
Under MARPOL, amendments to the Annexes are deemed to be accepted after a period determined by MEPC (of not less than ten months), unless prior to that date, not less than one third of the Parties, or Parties the combined merchant fleets of which constitute not less than 50 per cent of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant fleet, have communicated to the IMO their objection to the amendments.
The proposed amendments are deemed to be accepted on 1 July 2018 and will enter into force on 1 January 2019.
The practical, legal and financial effects of the treaty action for Australia are negligible as Australia does not currently have ships operating in the Baltic or North Seas, and the other changes are administrative in nature and do not impose any new requirements on industry.
Marine Order 97 (Marine pollution prevention—air pollution) 2013 (made under the Navigation Act 2012 and the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983) will be amended to implement the proposed treaty action. The amendment will provide for temporary exemptions from the NOx emission limits in a limited set of circumstances, particularly for newly constructed or repaired vessels, and as such is minimal in nature.
The Committee determined not to hold a formal inquiry into any of the minor treaty actions, and agreed that binding treaty action may be taken in each case.
Hon. Stuart Robert MP
13 August 2018