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Free trade & the ALP « Previous | |Next »
December 28, 2003

Can we gain an insight into the Latham-led ALP stance on the free trade agreement with the US from the past?

The proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and the US is primarily about the furthering process of globalisation as deep integration. The Hawke/Keating ALP supported this process in the form of the Uruguary Round. They justified this trade politics in terms of an inexorable movement to an ever more deeply integrated economy.

The Uruguary Round in the mid 1990s was seen as a harbinger of a grand global development. Free trade is the other side of economic rationalism or neo-liberalism within the national state, as it is the free market writ large. It a view in which all forms of protection--- tariffs, subsidies, quotas etc----are eliminated, and business firms can, and may, freely enter all markets (of nation states) at will. Goverments should refrain from intervening in international trade between private corporations.

This history suggests that a Latham-led ALP will not significantly question, let alone transgress, this trade politics or its embodied vision. It may continue with the ALPs historical preference for multilateralism (eg., GATT or regional trading blocs) as opposed to bilateralism (a FTA with the US), but these are different pathways to trade liberalisation, deeper integration and a globalised market.

From what I can make out the ALP tacitly holds that the free trade/globalization is inevitable and desirable and that there is no alternative. Hence the policy emphasis on national competivemness and increasing trade exports. In this the ALP is part of the policy making orthodoxy insofar as it accept the Washington consensus---the general agreement amongst Washington-based economic & political institutions on free market free trade policies as implemented by the IMF, World Bank and the WTO.

Hence the corporate form of globalization represents a political dividing line between the ALP and the Australian Greens. The latter see potential threats to local communities, national culture and the environment from this form of globalization. National sovereignty is required to protect these, especially tourist development which can take over whole communities, devastate coastlines, sequester valuable land for golf courses or resorts and bastardize local values and culture.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:55 PM | | Comments (0)