Free Trade?! Ha! 

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 Australian Labor MP Craig Emerson (Shadow Minister for Innovation Industry and Trade)  has been running a series of emails on "Putting Australia's National Interest First.  Excerpts from Update No. 4 follow:

My outspoken comments on behalf of Labor on the proposed US-Australia free trade agreement have earned the condemnation of the Murdoch press....

The Australian’s editorial of 6 May 2003 condemns my statement on ABC radio that if Labor won office before a trade deal was struck with the US, the incoming government “would need to have a very careful look” to make sure the deal was in Australia’s national interest rather than America’s.

 Its condemnation extends to me “signalling to the US Government that [I am] deeply suspicious of its motives”.

 In the negotiations I would expect the US Government to behave in the national interest of the United States.  And I’m sure it will.  Successive Administrations have and this won’t change.....

Contrary to the beliefs of The Australian, the interests of the US and those of Australia don’t automatically coincide (....and ....) meanwhile, Australia is being asked to weaken its quarantine system, local content rules for television, Foreign Investment Review Board and possibly the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

 The test of any trade agreement must be whether or not it’s in Australia’s national interest.   

Mr Emerson comments on the issue of wheat sales to Iraq

 During his recent visit to the US, Trade Minister Mark Vaile claimed he had gained assurances that in competing with Australian wheat sales to Iraq, the US would not use “excessive subsidies”.

 And President Bush assured Prime Minister Howard that competition would be on a level playing field.

 The US Farm Act provides subsidies of $US150 billion to US farmers.  That’s more than one-third the size of the Australian economy.

 Mr Vaile apparently doesn’t consider these subsidies to be “excessive”.  Is this what the US means by a level playing field?

 In our next update we'll brief you on provisions that will be imported from the North American Free Trade Agreement to the US-Australia FTA that will allow foreign multinational companies to sue Federal, state and local governments in Australia seeking to regulate for the social good if the laws or regulations affect their profits.

Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry and Trade 

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