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. Once considered they are incorporated into a formal report of the Committee at the next opportunity.
The Committee has been asked to consider the following six minor treaty actions.
Agreement between the Government of Australia, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, the Kingdom of Thailand, the United States of America, and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, pursuant to Article XIII of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, on the establishment of country-specific quotas in the Republic of Korea’s World Trade Organization Tariff-Rate quota for Rice
The Committee held a public hearing into this minor treaty action in Canberra on 2 December 2019: this report presents the first opportunity for the treaty action to be incorporated into a report of the Committee.
The proposed Agreement will give effect to a negotiation undertaken with the Republic of Korea (the ROK) under Article XIII of the General Agreement on Tariffs 1994 (GATT) under the World Trade Organization (WTO) on rice imports. The Agreement will establish country-specific quotas (CSQs) for Australia, China, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam in relation to the ROK’s proposed WTO tariff rate quota (TRQ) for rice, pursuant to Article XIII of the GATT.
The Agreement will extend rights to Australia to export rice to the ROK under a new 15,595 tonne per annum CSQ within the ROK’s WTO rice TRQ. The Agreement will also extend rights to export rice to the ROK for China, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam under CSQs. The ROK offered CSQs to Australia and the other Parties to resolve previously raised concerns in the WTO (known as ‘objections’) in 2014 in relation to the ROK’s originally proposed WTO rice TRQ.
The only action required by Australia will be to remove its formal WTO objection to the certification of the ROK’s modified WTO Goods Schedule containing Korea’s proposed rice TRQ; an act that is within the remit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The other Parties receiving CSQs under the Agreement (China, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam) will also be required to remove their objections to the certification of the ROK’s proposed rice TRQ in the WTO.
2019 Amendments to Annexes II, VIII and IX of the Basel Convention on the Control of the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal
The proposed treaty action relates to amendments to the annexes of the Basel Convention on the Control of the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (the Convention).
The amendments to the annexes to the Convention will strengthen the control of unsorted plastic wastes, and plastic wastes containing hazardous substances. In particular:
Annex II (relating to categories of wastes requiring special consideration, known as ‘other wastes’) will be amended to control the movement of mixed, non-hazardous, plastic waste not sorted to a high standard;
Annex VIII (relating to hazardous wastes) will be amended to specifically capture plastics that are hazardous (e.g. materials which are flammable, poisonous or toxic to human health); and
Annex IX (relating to non-hazardous wastes that are not controlled under the Convention) will be amended to include certain plastic wastes destined for recycling in an environmentally sound manner and almost free from contamination and other types of wastes.
The Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989 (the Act) and the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Regulations 1996 (the Regulations) implement the obligations in the Convention in Australia. Minor amendments to the Act and Regulations will be required to implement the amendments to the Convention. Further amendments may be made to the Regulations after further consultation with industry.
2019 Amendments to Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade
The proposed treaty action relates to amendments to the annexes of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (the Convention).
This proposed treaty action relates to the listing of two new chemicals, phorate and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), in Annex III of the Convention. Phorate is a highly toxic pesticide. HBCD is a flame retardant polystyrene foam used in thermal insulation in the building industry, as well as in upholstery and packaging. It is a concern because of its persistence, toxicity and ecotoxity.
According to the Explanatory Statement, the amendments to Annex III of the Convention are procedural in nature and will have a negligible practical, legal and financial effect within Australia.
Minor legislative changes will be required to the following legislation:
Schedule 1 of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Administration) Regulations 1995;
Schedule 2 of the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958;
Schedule 3 of the Customs Tariff Act 1995; and
Sections 64 and 66 of the draft Industrial Chemicals (General) Rules 2018.
2019 Amendments to Annex I of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation International Convention against Doping in Sport
The proposed treaty action amends Annex I to the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport (the Convention). Annex I (Prohibited List - International Standard) identifies the substances and methods that are prohibited in sport.
The proposed amendments align Annex I with the 2020 Prohibited List adopted by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on 23 September 2019, which take effect on 1 January 2020. The amendments to the Prohibited List are technical, yet minor, in nature and are the result of a consultative process to determine the substances and methods that are considered performance enhancing.
Australia's obligations under the Convention are given effect through an anti-doping legislative framework that comprises the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Act 2006 (Cth) and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Regulations 2006, which incorporate the National Anti-Doping Scheme.
Compliance with the proposed amendment to Annex I of the Convention does not require amendment to the Australian anti-doping legislative framework, as the specification of prohibited substances and methods under the Australian Sport Anti-Doping Authority Regulations 2006 is based on the Prohibited List, as adopted by WADA and in force from time-to-time.
Changes to Schedule 1 of the Annex on Chemicals to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction
The proposed minor treaty action will add the chemical weapons known as ‘Novichoks’ to Schedule 1 of the Annex on Chemicals to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (the Convention).
Novichoks are chemical nerve agents with no known industrial uses, but which could be used in an act of war or for terrorism.
The changes will require regulatory amendments to the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Regulations 1997 and Customs Prohibited Imports (Regulations) 1956.
Amendment of 2018 to the Code of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006
The proposed treaty action is the deemed acceptance by Australia of the amendments relating to Standards A2.1 and A2.2 and Guideline B2.5.1 of the Code of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC).
The MLC sets minimum working conditions for seafarers to work on ships. Amendments made by this particular treaty action are intended to ensure that a seafarers’ employment agreement will continue to have effect while a seafarer is held captive on or off the ship as a result of acts of piracy or armed robbery, that wages will continue to be paid and he/she will be entitled to repatriation.
Australian domestic legislation already ensures that for most vessels, seafarers’ employment agreements, wages and other entitlements (including repatriation) continue to have effect in circumstances where they are held in captivity. The proposed amendments to Marine Order 11 are intended to cover all vessels so that Australia’s domestic law and practice aligns with the amendments to the Code of the Maritime Labour Convention.
Accepting the amendments will ensure that appropriate workplace protections for seafarers are in place.
The amendments to the MLC were approved by the 107th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on 5 June 2018. The Director General notified the Members who have ratified the MLC of the amendments on 2 November 2018.
The MLC provides for the deemed acceptance of amendments that are approved by the ILC and these amendments will accordingly enter into force on 26 December 2020.
The amendments will be implemented by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) via amendments to Marine Order 11 made under the Navigation Act 2012.
The Committee determined to hold a formal inquiry into the first of these minor treaty actions, but not into any of the others. The Committee agreed that binding treaty action may be taken in each case.
Mr Dave Sharma MP
3 August 2020