31/7/04 WTO Watch Qld bulletin 84
1) COMING EVENTS
2) CALLS TO ACTION
3) DID YOU KNOW THAT............................
Saturday, July 31, 2004
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
A close knowledge of US trade policy can lead you to only one possible conclusion: that the US government
views trade as simply a non-violent form of conquest. One country gets Tommy Franks (US commander of the
war in Iraq), and another gets Robert Zoellick (Bush's trade representative).
Sean Healy (April, 2003)
US/Aus: All The Way With The FTA.
The US-Australia Free Trade Agreement is "the most retrograde step in Australian economic policy in 20 years".
Michael Costello, former head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on ABC TV's Lateline, 16/07/04.
"I think if Mark Latham said no to the FTA and he got in, people would stand up and applaud him for just
having the balls to be a visionary and not feel as though he is having to answer to somebody,"
1) COMING EVENTS
"AUSTRALIA AT THE CROSSROADS."
Tuesday 3rd August, 7pm
KEVIN CARMODY - singer and songwriter will open the forum
JIM SOORLEY - MC
JULIAN BURNSIDE - QC (Refugee advocate)
MICHAEL RAPER - (Aust Council of Social Services)
Professor IAN LOWE - (Speaker on the environment)
JULIE BIGNELL - (Australian Services Union)
MARY GRAHAM - (Speaker on indigenous issues)
ANN MATSON - (Oxfam Community Aid Abroad)
Sponsored by Just Peace
For further information
or call Annette 3324 8459 or Ross 3366 5318
August 6th at King George Square, Brisbane, starting at 5.00 pm
Qld Conservation Council State Conference
"Different Voices, Common Cause."
20, 21 AND 22 AUGUST
Financing Development Colloquium
August 12 to 14 at Gold Coast Conference and Exhibition Centre.
Hear international and Australian experts on the links between economic growth, poverty reduction, and shared prosperity in an increasingly insecure world. A chance to discuss practical ways to resource global commitments to sustainable development goals, focussing particularly on Australia's contribution to development cooperation in the Asia and Pacific regions in the lead up to the elections.
This event is organised by The Foundation for Development Cooperation with support from the Australian Agency for International Development, Griffith University, the Commonwealth Foundation, UNDP, and the Oikumene Foundation.
Register online at http://www.FDC2004.com or
phone the Foundation for Development Cooperation on 3236 4633 or
2) CALLS TO ACTION
a) Please make your opinion known by voting in the Sydney Morning Herald poll on the AUSFTA
b) If you have not already done so, please take 30 seconds to send Mr Latham a message at www.NoFTA.org.
c) Email to ALP: Now is crunch time!
The ALP is deeply divided over the AUSFTA, and will need to make a decision on the implementing legislation in the next couple of weeks, possibly as early as this Monday (1st August) when Caucus meets. We need to help the ALP make up its collective mind. Please take the time to send off the following letter (kindly supplied by AFTINET) to the ALP members list below.
ALP Email addresses:
13 July 2004
US Free Trade Agreement - implementing legislation
I am writing because the ALP will need to make a decision very soon about the US Free Trade Agreement (USFTA). This agreement is very clearly not in Australia's interest, for the reasons set out below. It is critical that the ALP take a stand on this and vote against the implementing legislation in the Senate as a matter of national importance.
Community concern about this agreement is very strong and widespread. The Senate Select Committee inquiring into the USFTA received over 500 submissions from a wide range of community organisations and individuals, most of which expressed strong concerns about the agreement.
The Senate Committee recently released its interim report, available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/freetrade_ctte/index.htm. The interim report expresses serious concerns about the USFTA, and contains key reasons why the ALP must vote against the legislation. The USFTA:
means higher medicine costs: the agreement gives US drug companies rights to seek reviews of decisions by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. Changes to patent law will delay the production of cheaper generic medicines. Public health experts believe this will weaken the price control of the PBS, leading to 30% higher costs for the PBS and Australian consumers ($1.5 billion per year) (Senate Committee Submission from Professor Peter Drahos, Dr Thomas Faunce, Professor David Henry and Martyn Goddard, available at www.aftinet.org.au)
restricts Australian voices in new media by limiting Australian content rules for new forms of media, and allows the US government to challenge these rules as a barrier to trade. As new forms of media become dominant fewer and fewer Australian voices and stories will be heard,
is undemocratic in 'binding' or freezing state and local government regulation of essential services at existing levels, unless they are listed as exceptions. This limits the ability of future governments to regulate in many areas. Water, electricity and public transport have not been listed as exceptions.
adopts US copyright law, meaning higher costs for libraries, schools, and small software companies
sets up new processes which will allow the US to pressure Australia to reduce quarantine standards. The American Farm Bureau Federation has stated that it expects many gains for US exporters because of changes to Australia's quarantine processes
Limits the power of the Foreign Investment Review Board to assess whether US investments are in the national interest by increasing the threshold from $50 to $800 million for all but a few exempt sectors,
has a disputes process which allows the US government to challenge many Australian laws and policies before a trade tribunal based on trade law without considering impacts on health, culture or the public interest,
Gives greater access for the US to Australian manufacturing markets than Australian access to US markets, and prevents government purchasing policies from giving preference to Australian firms.. This could mean loss of Australian jobs in regional areas of high unemployment
fails to deliver the economic gains claimed by the government. Professor Ross Garnaut, Professor of Economics at ANU, Dr Philippa Dee from the Productivity Commission and ANU, and Dr Peter Brain from The National Institute of Economic and Industry Research found that government claims of economic benefits are exaggerated, and that there will be minimal gains or slight losses. Economic gains are limited by the restricted access to US agricultural and manufacturing markets.
The USFTA Senate Select Committee Interim Report and Dr Dee's report are available at http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/freetrade_ctte/index.htm and Dr Brain's report is available at www.aftinet.org.au.
The Greens and Democrats have stated that they will vote against the legislation. The ALP has pledged that it will vote against the legislation if the USFTA is not in the national interest. As the USFTA is clearly not in the national interest, I am calling upon you to act urgently to ensure that the ALP votes against the implementing legislation in the Senate when it is introduced in August.
3) DID YOU KNOW THAT.................
* Research by ANU's Dr Tom Faunce released last week showed that in addition to the higher cost to Australians of the PBS, the agreement will increase State public hospital drug costs by 12% by 2008.
This will increase hospital drug costs by $134 million by 2008, with NSW to pay the highest bill, of an extra $47 million a year, when the full impact of the provisions of the agreement are felt.
(ED: It is estimated that this will add $23 million a year to the Queensland Government's health bill.)
* Two senior United States trade negotiators who sealed the trade deal with Australia have accepted plum jobs representing US medical and drug companies.
Ralph Ives was promoted in April to assistant US trade representative for pharmaceutical policy after leading the trade negotiations with Australia.
Next month he becomes vice-president for global strategy at Drug multinational AdvaMed.
* The US Congress voted on the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement last week, approving the trade pact 314-109 in the House, and 80-16 in the Senate.
This is the largest favourable vote for any trade agreement ever brought before Congress, which is undoubtedly an indication of what a great deal it is for the US.
* Polling on the AUSFTA conducted by the AMWU shows that:
48% oppose, 41% support - with 64% of Labor voters opposing
65% agree that Australia could have done better in negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement
Only 9% of voters believe that Australia will benefit the most from the FTA, with 61% saying that the US will benefit most
61% of voters oppose Australia becoming more integrated with the US
52% of voters believe that the Prime Minister is putting America's interests ahead of Australia's.
A pdf copy of the polling summary is available at www.amwu.asn.au/images/ftasurveysumm.pdf
* 11 Community Organisations representing millions of Australians have called on the opposition, the minor parties and the independants in the Senate to reject the US Free Trade Agreement: Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Council of Social Services, Australian Conservation Foundation, Linux Australia, Australian Pensioners and Superannuants Federation Inc, Uniting Care NSW and ACT, Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Assn of NSW Inc, Doctors Reform Society, Public Health Assn of Australia, Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Australian Writers Guild.
WTO Watch Qld
Best to understand the dangers before swallowing this pill (Jul 19) - Much of the debate over the proposed free trade agreement with the US has been about higher drug costs under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
What has received little attention, however, is the impact of the proposed agreement on hospital prices for so-called generic drugs, which will affect public hospital budgets at the state level as generic drug prices rise.