On 29 July 2019, the Australian Government referred the Australia – Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (A-HKFTA) to the Australian Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) for review (see here).

This referral follows the signing of the A-HKFTA and associated Investment Agreement by the Australian and Hong Kong SAR Governments on 26 March 2019, which we discussed in our earlier note (see here). In brief, the A-HKFTA modernises the 1993 Hong Kong-Australia Bilateral Investment Treaty (1993 BIT), bringing the relevant standards of treatment in line with comparable international investment agreements. The full text of the A-HKFTA and the associated Investment Agreement is available on the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website (see here).

The JSCOT's review of the A-HKFTA is a precursor to the Australian Parliament passing legislation to implement the Agreement in Australian municipal law. The review will focus on whether implementation of the A-HKFTA is in Australia's national interest.

We anticipate that the JSCOT will form a positive view of the A-HKFTA given its responsiveness to well-publicised Australian concerns about the 1993 BIT's standards of treatment in the context of the arbitration brought against Australia by Philip Morris in 2011.

The JSCOT invites interested persons and organisations to make submissions by 23 August 2019. If the A-HKFTA affects you – including if you are contemplating any dispute under the 1993 BIT please consider making a submission to the JSCOT or getting in contact with us to discuss.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.