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Minor Parties Oppose US Free Trade Agreement

The Australian Democrats and the Australian Greens have each expressed opposition to a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States.

The proposed agreement has been the subject of discussion between the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the US President, George W. Bush, over the weekend.

Bush has said he wants to reach agreement on a FTA this year and send it to Congress for approval next year. International treaties have to be approved by the United States Senate. No such constitutional requirement exists in Australia. An executive government decision here is sufficient for Australia to become a signatory to a free trade agreement.

Text of media release from Senator Aden Ridgeway, Australian Democrats spokesperson for Trade and Overseas Development.

Fast tracked Free Trade Agreement Not In Australia’s Interest

RidgewayThe Australian Democrats today warned that President Bush’s timetable for a fast tracked free trade agreement is not in the interests of Australia.

Trade Spokesperson, Senator Aden Ridgeway, said the timetable President Bush is suggesting is almost unrealistic given the complexity and breadth of issues to be negotiated.

“The more pressure there is to have this agreement fit President Bush’s timetable, the less likely we are to have the leverage to negotiate over the issues Australian people have flagged as important to them – such as Australian cultural content, health and telecommunications,” said Senator Ridgeway.

“We need to be sure that we have a good and fair agreement – not just a fast one.

“Once again, Australians are finding out details about the USFTA through a third party and not from our own Government.

“Last week we heard that Trade Minister Mark Vaile was lobbying in the US about the FTA rather than informing Australians.

“We call on the Government to remember who they actually represent and to be as up front with the Australian people as they appear to be with the US Government and lobby groups about the details and timetable of these negotiations,” said Senator Ridgeway.

The Democrats had asked the Government for detail on trade talks twice previously before initiating the current Senate Inquiry into issues involved in the negotiations of both a US free trade agreement and GATS.

The first public hearings of the Senate Inquiry into GATS and the USFTA will begin this Thursday.

“Australians are rightly concerned at the possible effects such an agreement may have on our economy and do not want to hear about it via satellite from the US, but directly from our own Government,” concluded Senator Ridgeway.

Text of media release by Senator Kerry Nettle, Australian Greens Senator from New South Wales.

Greens May Day message: Australia is not for sale

NettleAustralian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle joined unions and community groups today in a May Day march and called for ongoing struggle against the threats of war and corporate globalisation.

“The May Day celebration of people power has never been more relevant than today, where mass movements around the world continue to struggle to represent the public good against private power and greed,” Senator Nettle said.

“The Prime Minister has ignored the people’s wishes over the illegal, immoral and expensive war, and now is poised to sell out the people of Australia through a U.S/Australia. Free Trade Agreement.

“The US President has promised to reward Howard for his obedience by getting the trade deal done by the end of the year, a trade deal that looks set to undermine public services and threaten Australian jobs and culture.

“This trade deal comes at a time when the Treasurer is about to deliver a budget that further degrades the public health and public education systems of this country, whilst hitting up taxpayers for a war they never supported.

“The Budget, to be announced next week, looks set to be yet another kick in the guts for ordinary Australians who will be forced to pay for John Howard’s warmongering.

“The Greens are here to tell John Howard and his Ministers that Australia is not for sale. Workers rights and conditions aren’t for sale, Medicare isn’t for sale and our universities aren’t for sale,” said Senator Nettle.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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