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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

free trade and water « Previous | |Next »
November 5, 2003

There was a good comment in my earlier post on Australia's proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with US from Roy Whyte at the Canadian Democratic Movement. Roy gives a Canadian perspective based on their experience of both FTA and NFTA with the US. I am posting his comments here in full.

Roy says:


"As the source of much of argument regarding the pending Australian-US trade agreement, let me say this - beware.

Having rules and groundwork for trade is great and is necessary but beware of the beast dressed as a benign object. Canada and Mexico were duped into believing many of the very same things your government is telling its people.

They will claim an increase in market access and with that will come jobs and an increased economic outlook.

Its all smoke and mirrors. America has no interest in free trade - we Canadians know that first hand. Canada has seen a net decrease of over 150,000 jobs since ratification. Our GDP growth in the 1990s was the worst since the Great Depression. Innovation and research has plummeted as our companies are no longer under Canadian control.

Another example - even though under our agreement NAFTA - that we are to have equal access without tariffs or duties that is not what is happening. Softwood lumber is a major export for many Canadian provinces and we have seen not once or twice but a DOZEN attempts by the US government to put duties and penalties on Canadian exports of softwood lumber as they claim we dump onto their markets. The WTO has decided against the US each and every time. This has NOT stopped them from doing it again. At this very moment 1000s of Canadians are out of work as a result of a 28% duty slammed onto our exports of softwood lumber. So much for free.

It does not stop there - wheat, tomatoes, potatoes and other goods have seen duties put on as a simple result of us having a competitive advantage over our American counterparts. Do not trust the snake oil being sold by Howard.

It gets even worse. With time and increased access to your markets you will see a sudden and dramatic increase in buyouts of your companies.

In Canada we are nearing 50% foreign ownership of our industries and corporations - with most being American owned. Of Canada's top 500 companies a full 35% are foreign owned.

In 1997 there were 41 large Canadian petroleum companies. Today there are six. Of the 35 that no longer exist, U.S. companies bought up 21.

In energy and in resources, Canada's ability to control its own supplies and prices has been drastically reduced. Canadian oil and natural gas prices are now set in the U.S. If the U.S. faces a severe shortage and their market dictates huge price increases, too bad, Canadians will face the same high prices. Canadian oil and gas can no longer be sold at lower prices in Canada than the prices we charge Americans.

With the ratification will come direct competition with US companies. This means there will be tremendous pressure on your government to steadily cut corporate tax rates and the rates for the rest of the wealthy - the trickle down theory - or the staying competitive line.

With those decreased tax rates will come massive social cuts in health care, social services, aboriginal monies, and a tax shift onto the lower classes. Once they begin to suffer, Howard and the like will claim privatization will be the answer to all your ills. Donít believe it. Every single sector of the Canadian economy that was public and turned over to private industry has seen - increased costs, degradation of services, and even avoidable death through unclean water and food.

Contained within the trade deal are sovereignty killing clauses such as our infamous 'chapter 11'. What that does is gives investors and corporations the same and increasingly more rights than private citizens. For example, when Canada through our House of Commons banned a toxic chemical known as MMT because it was shown to cause nervous system disorders, the Ethyl Corporation of the US sued under 'chapter 11' claiming lost profits, and future lost earnings. Even though the chemical was banned under democratic procedure for the benefit of all Canadians it was overturned, and we had to pay compensation! And it goes on... the Sun Belt Water Company is suing for over 1 billion dollars because the Canadian provinces voted not to allow bulk water shipments. In essence, your government will become a powerless tool of the people while foreign companies control your national agenda all in the name of 'free trade'.

I could go on and on and on about all the ills hoisted upon us through our one-sided trade deal with the US but I think you are getting the picture..."


We can broaden these insights. Why not look the effect of the FTA on Australia's environment on the what if assumption that the FTA does go through. This is what our policy makers should be considering.

I reckon this account by Kenneth Davidson is about right. Davidson suggests that the negotiations should be shelved. He is working from a report published by the newly established, non-partisan, Melbourne-based think tank, OzProspect on the commissioned a report on the environmental consequences of an AUSFTA. An FTA with the US will affect Australia's environment through increased agricultural production for export. Davidsons says:


"The study concludes that if the US market for primary products is opened up for Australian farmers, the resultant expansion in agricultural production would increase Australian water use by up to 1.3 trillion litres a year - almost as much as the entire national domestic water use."


That's an increase of around 6 per cent of Australia's total water use. This is at a time when politicians are trying to clawback water from irrigators and return water to the rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin to improve their health. It is also at a time when governments are trying to repair the country from salinisation and landclearing. An FTA with the US will exacerbate environmental degradation in Australia.

So where is the report on the environmental impacts of most trade agreements by the Howard Government? Are they going to undertake such a review reviews that would include significant opportunities for public involvement?Should not an environmental impact statement (EIS) be mandatory to ensure that environmental considerations are taken into account in m negoitations?

Don't hold your breathe for an EIS.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:21 AM | | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (2)
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» Gary Sauer-Thompson's each-way bet on FTA ruin from Gareth Parker
GARY Sauer-Thompson continues his doomsday opposition to a free trade agreement between Australia and the United States in a recent post. Quoting Roy Whyte, representative of an organisation known as the Canadian Democratic Movement*, Gary endorses Why... [Read More]

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It is difficult to restrain my anger as a citizen when I read about this. Australia's proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with US. It appears to require Australia making lots of concessions in exchange for no real benefits. It looks like a replay of th... [Read More]

 
Comments

Comments

I think that post just about says it all. FTA? who needs it.

Hence my abject skepticism for all 'free trade deals.' The proper solution: quit monkeying about, quit going on and on about idiot quid-pro-quo nonsense as though our purchases being subsidised by foreign taxpayers somehow hurt us - just phase out all tariff and other import barriers not strictly necessary for quarantine and be done with it! Let the foreigners learn of the stupidity that is subsidisation of exports the hard way while we live it up at their expense.

'Free-trade deal' in layman's terms:
"I'll stop beating myself up if you stop beating yourself up."

JJM

No, as someone pointed out earlier (was it you G.?), I think we should continue to push for an FTA, show up how 'free' any terms and conditions will be (industry, environment, arts etc) and then walk away from it.

It would appear that members of your government are taking a long look at this issue. A representitive of the Office of Senator Meg Lees has contacted us looking for more information. In essence they are worried about the pace of the talks (trying to get it done by the new year) and the total ramifications there of.

We will respond to the Senator today, and if we could we would like to let groups and individuals in Australia know that they need to fight and fight hard as our move into free trade has just about been one of the worst moves Canada has done.

Your Howard sounds very much like our PM Mulroney - who was responsible for signing away Canada. Australia is a wonderful country and is respected here in North America, it would be a shame to see your nation reduced to near colony status like ours has been.

Business backed politicians and their mouthpieces are hard to overcome but it can be done. Although a little too late, in Canada there is a growing movement of defiance against further deals of unfettered trade. If there is anything we can do, do not hesitate to contact us.