In the first agreement of its kind, 14 countries of the Asia Pacific region including major asbestos-user countries like India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, have agreed to work together to ‘prevent asbestos-related diseases and to promote transition from the use of asbestos to safer alternative products’.
The agreement, a breakthrough in Pillar II (Supply Chains) of the ongoing Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity trade negotiations (IPEF), was signed by all countries on November 15, 2023, in San Francisco, USA. The countries within IPEF include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. IPEF aims to enhance environmental, labour, and anti-corruption standards through cooperation and by encouraging investment in the region.
Australia, represented by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, played a leading role in negotiating the asbestos element of the agreement. Both the ACTU and Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA had previously submitted proposals urging action on asbestos within IPEF in the region.
The agreement facilitates direct dialogue and exchange between the countries to support the agreed transition away from asbestos. The consensus to reduce asbestos exposure is now acknowledged by all 14 countries, including India and Indonesia.
Asia stands as the last remaining region globally to consume large quantities of asbestos.