Unions are not convinced that the Free Trade Agreement with the United States is in the countries best interest and remained concerned about job losses in our manufacturing industry as well as the loss of Australian intellectual property rights.

A meeting of the Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in
Sydney today unions resolved:

The US/FTA negotiated by the Howard
Government is in fact a preferential trade deal in the immediate interest of US
companies with only limited and gradual entry of Australian primary products
onto the US markets.

There is no demonstrable economic case which would
lead us to support this agreement while we remain concerned about:

  • The swift reduction of manufacturing tariff with no industry development
    plan and the resulting job losses, particularly in the car component sector and
    TCF industries
  • The adoption of American intellectual property and copyright laws
  • This will increase costs to libraries, universities and schools and put
    future wealth through innovation by SME’ s at risk
  • The capacity for Government procurement contracts to be swamped by American
    companies with restrictions on preference for Australian firms
  • The restrictions on investment and local content requirements in regard to
    Australian production in pay TV and new media
  • The review mechanism for listing of pharmaceutical products and its
    implication for longer term increases in Government subsidy
  • Limits to the power of the Foreign Investment Review Board with a new
    threshold of $800m; and
  • The capacity to “bind” or freeze state and local services unless
    they are listed as exceptions; in particular water, electricity and transport
    which are not listed.
  • We note that the ALP is committed to
    considering the outcomes of the Senate Inquiry which will be available on or
    before the 12 August and welcome Mark Latham’s determination to consider
    the evidence in the national interest.

    ACTU Executive calls for ongoing
    dialogue with the ALP on the basis of our concerns as listed.

    Howard’s attempt to portray this trade agreement as essential to the US
    Alliance is unacceptable and indeed not in Australia’s long term interest.

    Australian jobs, intellectual property rights and government rights to
    establish social and cultural guarantees are fundamental foundations for a
    secure future.

    No trade deal should be accepted if these fundamentals
    are weakened.