Ancient wisdom (letter)by Michael NelmsNews Weekly
, June 29, 2002
Colin Teese's article "Going to War Over Trade" (NW
, June 15) paints a sad but realistic picture of international trade, one where the powerful gain what they can and small powers such as Australia are frequently forced to comply.
Unfortunately, textbook ideals of economic rationalism and unencumbered competition are found to be lacking in a pragmatic world. Perhaps the real situation may be embodied in a quote on "justice" from the 400 BC Greek historian Thucydides,
"The question of justice only enters where the pressure of necessity is equal - the powerful extract what they can and the weak grant what they must".
Mr Howard is to be congratulated for wanting to explore every option of a possible bilateral trade agreement with the US. His recent US visit paved the way for many potential opportunities to be developed. However, the initial appeal of such an arrangement with the world's largest economy shouldn't be allowed to compromise its main objective for Australia.
Whilst US leaders consider another election, their rather large pork barrels and vested self-interests, Mr Howard's focus may be one more of perceived shorter term political expedience (starry eyed and all the way with LBJ?) in lieu of real longer term benefits for Australia.
Unless we can move some way towards dismantling the US agricultural subsidy system, the path set by successive Australian governments through their unswerving (and frequently simplistic) adoption of the economic rationalist ideal will remain unchanged.
We should not have to compete with US domestic farmers who continue to enjoy subsidies equivalent to a tariff of 100% in many cases (with a similar conclusion in respect of EU farmers). Enormous damage to our agricultural industries and their exports has been one of the outcomes of our hard-line rationalist approach to date.
If the US isn't prepared to dislodge its domestic subsidy programs for a free trade agreement then the deal should be simply unacceptable.Michael Nelms,
East Malvern, Vic