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Havachat: Free, fair or foolish? The Australian-US FTA - Day 2

By Doug Cameron and Alan Oxley - posted Tuesday, 27 May 2003

Havachats are week-long email dialogues between two prominent advocates on an issue of the day. To vote on the issue and make your view count, click here.

Day 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5.

Doug is first. Alan responds.


From: Doug Cameron
Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 2003 13:54
To: Alan Oxley
Subject: First response

Dear Alan,

I am afraid that the same old rhetoric on the benefits of free trade will not be sufficient to answer the increasing critical analysis being undertaken by unions, civil society, independent academics, and now the government's own Productivity Commission.

Despite your best attempts to justify a free trade agreement with the United States the evidence is mounting that it is not in Australia's interest.

My contention that the USFTA will not advance the social and economic position of the majority of working Australians is receiving widespread independent support.

Despite your unsubstantiated claims that the USFTA will protect and increase jobs for Australian workers, the Productivity Commission, after extensive analysis, contradicts your fundamental thesis.

Productivity Commission research, reported in the Australian Financial Review (26 May 2003) finds that:

  • Most preferential trade deals negotiated over the past four decades have depressed rather than expanded trade.
  • Preferential trade deals divert more trade from non-member countries than they create between countries signing the agreement.
  • 12 out of 18 bilateral free trade agreements had reduced the value of exports even after allowing for the impact of other factors that influence trade flows.
  • Agreements that reduced trade included some of the most liberalising, including, NAFTA, the European Union, the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Agreement, and the Mercosur agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.
  • Some of the more prominent Preferential Trading Agreements have not even succeeded in creating more trade among members.

When you've got the Productivity Commission and the AMWU against you, you're in trouble!

You claim that the USFTA will not undermine Australia's culture. However in the APEC Study of August 2001, partly authored by you, it is claimed that one of the benefits of the USFTA is the influence of US management on Australian management. Your report observes favourably that US firms "were less likely to recognise unions".

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About the Authors

Doug Cameron is National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

Alan Oxley is the former ambassador to the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs and Chairman of the Australian APEC Studies Centre.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Doug Cameron
All articles by Alan Oxley
Related Links
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union
Australia-US trage Agreement home page
Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade resoures
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