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July 11, 2003

I suspected as much

I have been watching the twists and turns with the Free Trade Agreement (FTA)with a bit of interest and growing unease. In terms of power politics of unequal nation states it struck me as being loaded in favour of the US. Australia would become an economic province of the US, and it would be required to dismantle a lot of its regulations to grant the US greater access.

Just to forestall the 'anti-Americanism' shout from those who equate Australia with America, here is an article by two free trade economists that conforms my unease. Jagdish Bhagwati and Ross Garnaut say:

"The US has been actively using FTAs, where they bargain with smaller powers such as Mexico, Chile and Jordan, to introduce templates on non-trade issues such as intellectual property protection, restrictions on the use of capital controls even in times of crisis, labour standards and diverse environmental issues of peripheral relevance to trade. The US has turned the bilaterals into a game of pursuing agendas that reflect the agendas of their trade-unrelated lobbies and increasingly the ideology of the present administration."

In this game it is best to see Australia as a Mexico. Free trade is a misnomer given the exceptions made for threatened industries in the US; eg., – the protection of US agriculture and the huge subsidies paid to agriculture from the proposed FTA with Australia. If we are Mexico then the GDP may increase but the quality of life decreases as inequality deepens.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at July 11, 2003 12:15 PM

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I trust you're not at all surprised, Gary?

Posted by: Niall at July 11, 2003 09:48 PM

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