Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Abbott Wants to Give the Farm Away - Literally

If reports that the Prime Minister wants to complete a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China within 12 months are true, Australia stands to be the biggest loser.

Everyone acknowledges the China FTA negotiations have gone on for a long time.  But that reflects the vital interests at stake –

Ø  interests like access to the Chinese market for Australia’s efficient agricultural and horticultural producers;

Ø  interests like Australia’s innovators – software developers, often in strategic areas like mining, and music and film producers, who are constantly denied making any money in the Chinese market because of flagrant intellectual property piracy; and

Ø  interests like wine producers and manufacturers who face extortionate tariffs when exporting to China, making it all but impossible to do so.

China has to come to the party on a range of Australia’s interests.  Unless China agrees to take action on the things that are important to Australia, it would be foolish to give in to China’s interests in more generous treatment of investment by State Owned Enterprises, and visa concessions.

That would not be in Australia’s interests, either in the short or long-term.

Mr Abbott is reported to have said, "I’ve always taken the view that you should take what you can get today and pitch for the rest tomorrow when you’ve got a strong foundation to build upon.”

That is simply not negotiating.  That is just giving the game away.  Australia has been strong in negotiations because China will not concede ground on areas of importance to Australia, while at the same time China has made ambitious demands of Australia.

To say “well that’s fine, we’ll take what we can get today", is a recipe for disaster.  It shows a complete lack of understanding of how international negotiations work.  It shows a complete lack of regard for Australia’s interests.  The Prime Minister is effectively allowing Australia’s farmers and innovators to be denied access to potentially the world’s biggest market.

If you can’t get concessions out of China in comprehensive negotiations where their aspirations give you some leverage, what possible hope do you have “tomorrow”, when rather than a “strong foundation to build upon”, you’ve completely given the game away and don’t have any foundation to negotiate with at all.
The Chinese negotiators must be rubbing their hands with glee at the naïve statements of our Prime Minister.  One can only hope that sanity will prevail.  Australia could benefit from an FTA with China, but only if China gives real ground on Australia’s legitimate interests.

1 comment:

  1. I recall when PM Whitlam recognised China and the abuse he received for dealing with commies. I recall when PM Keating said our future lay with trade with Asia, to be abused for dealing with Asia. Yet here he is, Abbott the first, the man who knows how to use OUR money to cover his attendances at so many functions. $90,000 over the past three years. He now wishes not just to work with China but to secede much to them.