Sep 20, 2013

Free trade crusade is easier said than done

Freelance journalist David Donaldson says the incoming Abbott government will have to balance the free-trade ethos of the Liberals with the protectionism of the Nationals. It won't be easy.

Joe Hockey

Tony Abbott says Australia is once again “open for business”, signalling the finalisation of multiple bilateral free trade agreements as a key economic goal for the incoming Coalition government. But the government faces challenges not only in reaching agreements with regional partners, but also in dealing with anti-free trade sentiment in the National Party.

The new Prime Minister stated this week he wanted “people here and abroad to understand that Australia welcomes foreign investment”, suggesting he will make an early effort to achieve progress on FTAs currently under negotiation with China, Japan, and South Korea. But in a bid to contain protectionist anxiety within the Nationals, Abbott qualified his position: “It’s got to be the right foreign investment, which is in our national interest, but one thing we can’t do is build walls against the world.”

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

5 thoughts on “Free trade crusade is easier said than done

  1. bushby jane

    I hope that whatever FTA’s they come up with are more beneficial to us than the one the National’s Mark Vaile came up with with USA.

  2. AR

    Abbott’s “open for business” is straight from the (paleo) neo-con playbook, a’la Raygun’s “Morning in Amerika!”.
    Both meaningless, feel good dog whistles – though more subtle/slightly less sinister than the previous UK tory campaign slogan “Are You Thinking What We Are Thinking?”.
    The perfect Oz tory slogan was in the 80s with Peacock’s self ablating, “The Answer os Liberal” to which the obvious riposte was “It must have been a rilly, rilly stoopid question.”

  3. wbddrss

    It is my impression that Australia is a relatively free and open society where it is relatively easy to come and conduct business. Language & culture plays a role here.

    I read somewhere that HongKong, Singapre NZ & Australia are easily in the top 10, always, of free trade societies. All were former British colonies.

    My point is that as we already are negotiating from a very free & open position, with very little manufacturing left to protect and export industries all mostly primary products; we have little left to negotiate away as far as blockers to free trade. Again I emphasise that this is my perception that the present world trade system seems to favour closed societies such as oriental one’s; rather than free & open societies such as anglo celtic or english speaking societies.

    I believe there are benefits from free trade and one of them is that our society does not have the same economic structural problems that come with protection & subsidies.

    This perception of unfairness means that maybe politically the Australian public sees free trade agreements as hurting Australia rather than benefiting Australia. In other words no matter how much we stick to purest free trade dogma. Nobody else will, making all these negotiations a waste of time and monies. Just an opinion. I would like to see someone argue that Australia will get a level playing field rather than a permanent lopsided one against Australia.


  4. wbddrss

    I am no expert, so my above heavily qualified assertions get following support, that Australia is already practising free trade, others need to catch up.

    above is a ranking , kind of, of facilitating free trade between countries. Just in case someone says that Australia is protectionist. I consider/believe we are open enough and don’t need to negotiate away more without a more level playing field.


  5. Nathan Gray

    Once again there is a lack of concentration on the value of an FTA with Indonesia. To be fair it is not scheduled to be called an “FTA” as it will be named a “comprehensive economic partnership agreement”. These FTA’s will greatly assist our primary producers such as those constituents that voted for Barnaby and others in the LNP. It is important however that the Australian government acknowledges the challenges of negotiating such agreements, and is prepared to forego some of our requirements, in order to get some wins. Lets hope that the new government can be more forward thinking and pragmatic on the issue. It is certainly complicated.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details