INDEPENDENT NEWS

Australia/US FTA - Confirms TLN's Worst Fears

Published: Mon 9 Feb 2004 10:23 AM
Australia/US FTA - Confirms TLN's Worst Fears
Reacting to the conclusion of a "free trade" agreement between the United States and Australia, Trade Liberalisation Network Executive Director, Suse Reynolds, said it confirmed the Network's worst fears for agriculture.
Having recently been in Washington, Reynolds congratulated Australia for concluding an agreement in an incredibly tough political environment.
And she commended negotiators for the high level of ambition reflected in the elimination of almost 99% of tariffs on industrial goods.
On agriculture it was a different story.
"While we have yet to examine the agreement in detail, it is apparent that the US gave almost nothing to Australia," she said.
"Although US beef, dairy and sugar producers get immediate tariff free access to the Australian market - effectively the whole loaf, Australian producers only get crumbs from the Americans."
Australian sugar producers get no more access than they are already entitled to under the last world trade round. Beef and dairy producers both get tiny increases in quota access, with beef tariff quotas to be phased out over effectively two decades and there is no mention at all about the abolition of dairy quotas.
Reynolds said this was extremely disappointing for several reasons;
* the prospect of New Zealand getting any better access in the event of its negotiating an FTA with the US is slim - "we needed the Australians to be much tougher than they have been", she said,
* the total omission of one agricultural sector and the low level of ambition on the others, sent terrible signals to other northern hemisphere protectionists, effectively legitimizing their stance which claims the need for protection of sensitive agricultural sectors, and
* the lack of US ambition, effectively lowers the level of ambition for agriculture in the Doha Round. Not only is New Zealand affected, but so are developing countries which desperately need more access to wealthy industrialized markets.
"The onus is now on countries like New Zealand and like minded groupings, such as the Cairns Group and G20, to use every strategy possible to see that meaningful agricultural trade liberalisation is achieved in the Doha Round," Reynolds concluded.
For further information Suse Reynolds can be contacted on 021 490 974. Please be aware however that she is currently travelling in Europe and that getting through may be difficult.

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