(Image: Mitchell Squire/Private Media)

Because the government keeps producing "free trade agreements" and lauding them as historic achievements, and because the media continues to report these as major economic achievements in spite of no evidence of any kind, Crikey finds itself in an quandary: we can either keep writing the same article every time there's a trade deal, or we can do one, simple, you-beaut guide to these things that will cover all future "free trade agreements". You just need to print this off and stick it on the fridge for handy reference.

What is a 'free trade deal'?

Not a free trade deal. A free trade deal needs, erm, free trade. These deals are about managed trade, in which countries agree to provide some slightly greater access to markets, usually over a long period of time. There is no actual free trade involved.

Who negotiates them?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). They negotiate them in secret, except that industry lobby groups are often allowed to see the drafts. The public are never allowed to see the drafts until they've actually been agreed -- meaning there's no possibility of proper scrutiny.