Washington trade deal (letter)by Robert BomNews Weekly
, September 21, 2002
To keep friends with the United States is important for Australia, particularly in the area of defence.
When it comes to business and trade, the relationship is like sport on the football field. Long term friends turn into fierce competitors.
The flagged and controversial "Free Trade" deal with United States has many disadvantages for Australia. Apart from the potential loss of independence and quarantine concerns, we also have the stumbling block of the US Farm Bill. With its $370 billion support for United States farmers, this Bill undermines our efforts in agriculture exports to the US severely.
Australia's natural markets lie to the north of us, in Asia. Just now, we have the pleasant surprise of the Australia-China $25 billion North West Shelf gas deal. The deal, which enables Australia to sell liquefied natural gas to China over the next 25 years, is a great bonus to us. It was won, unexpectedly, against great odds. China has set its target on overtaking the United States as an economic powerhouse over the next few decades.
Could it be that China, with the gas deal, is taking a tentative step towards increasing its sphere of economic influence in our region, by rejecting a cheaper alternative in Indonesia?
China and the rest of Asia are expected to become important markets in the future. Why then lock ourselves into a difficult and contentious "Free Trade" deal with the US?Robert Bom,