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July 2017

A persistent question, with unfortunate (geo-)political overtones, is whether Australia can be conceptualised as part of "Asia", as opposed to more circumscribed "Australasia", or the very broad "Asia-Pacific" (including all Pacific / Rim countries, including the Americas).

This has practical importance for my 21-chapter book forthcoming with Brill, co-edited with Julien Chaisse on "International Investment Treaties and Arbitration Across Asia". We decided to include a chapter on Australia and New Zealand as a potential "collective middle power" that may influence the trajectory of international investment (treaty) law in the region.

The issue had earlier cropped up in the CUP book on "Independent Directors in Asia", co-edited with Harald Baum and Dan Puchniak (and with enormous input also from Souichirou Kozuka), which is finally now in the type-set page proof stage and so should be published by November 2017. My chapter with Fady Aoun comparing Australian developments, which influenced Hong Kong in key respects with further ramification, ended up being placed after country studies in Asia (in the narrow or traditional sense) in the "Alternative Perspectives and Conclusions" part of the book. Below I reproduce [and lightly update] my memo of January 2015 arguing why it makes sense to consider Australia as part of Asia, especially for projects such as these.

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Written by: Luke Nottage and Catherine Niven

In 2008, as consumer confidence in Australia took a big hit from the Global Financial Crisis, the Productivity Commission published a report advising the federal Treasurer to lead a belated “re-harmonisation” of consumer protection law. The State and Territory governments agreed to enact substantive provisions mirroring those legislated by the federal Government, thus creating a uniform “Australian Consumer Law” (ACL) in force nation-wide from 2011.

This reform project was mainly “sold” as saving transaction costs for businesses domestically, but also in their dealings with overseas markets that have also been “trading up” to higher standards of consumer protection law (including now ASEAN). As such, for example, all Australian jurisdictions introduced general provisions voiding unfair contract terms along the model adopted by the European Union (EU) in 1993, following the lead of Victoria in 2003. More directly impacting on consumer product safety, the ACL added a novel reporting requirement that suppliers notify the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about serious product-related accidents, introduced already in 2001 by the EU - albeit in more expansive form.

In addition, the Australian governments also agreed to review the operation of the ACL after five years. In March 2017, with little fanfare, officials in “Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand” (CAANZ) released a Final Report including recommendations for ACL reform. They include mixed blessings for enhancing consumer safety law.

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Japanese Law in Asia-Pacific Socio-Economic Context
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