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The government must be crazy to agree to this 'free trade' agreement

By Elizabeth Thurbon and Linda Weiss - posted Tuesday, 17 February 2004

The proposed Free Trade deal with the US tabled last week is cause for great alarm for many parts of the Australian community.

Keep in mind that despite the government’s rhetoric, our current trade relationship with the US is not profitable for this country.

We’ve long run a massive trade deficit with the US, now standing at around $9 billion. This is the second-largest trade deficit with the US in the world.


While some individual Australian exporters certainly profit from their sales to the US, as a country we don’t, because we buy so much more than we sell.

To benefit the Australian community then, any trade agreement we sign with the US will have to reduce – not add to – this current burden on our economy.

But sadly the deal on the table has little chance of doing this.


Because the industries in which Australian producers are most competitive - and thus most likely to survive in the US market - will continue to face significant barriers under the proposed deal.

In beef – one of our most competitive industries - Australian farmers will have to wait 18 years for unfettered market access to the US.


Its worth noting that the 18 years that the US is giving itself to prepare for Australian competition is more time than any of the poorest developing countries have ever been granted by the WTO to effect structural adjustment.

Our sugar industry will have to wait for even longer for greater US market access.

But while the US has managed to keep its weakest industries effectively shielded from Australian competition, we have agreed to open our weakest industries to an onslaught of highly competitive US imports.

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About the Authors

Elizabeth Thurbon is a Lecturer in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of NSW. She has published on the financial systems of East Asia and is collaborating on a large comparative project, researching government-business relations in the global economy.

Linda Weiss is Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. Her work in the comparative and international politics of economic development has been translated into several languages. She is the author of four books, including The Myth of the Powerless State.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Elizabeth Thurbon
All articles by Linda Weiss
Related Links
University of Sydney
US-Australia Free Trade Agreement - Australian Perspective
US-Australia Free Trade Agreement - US Perspective
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