Nasty Surprises in the detail of the US Free Trade Agreement

Original Publication Date: 
8 February, 2004

AFTINET MEDIA RELEASE, 9 February 2004, 2pm Nasty Surprises in the detail of the US Free Trade Agreement

'The US government summary version of the US Free Trade Agreement contains some nasty surprises on the price of medicines, Australian content in new media and the Foreign Investment Review Board,' said Dr Patricia Ranald, policy manager at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Convenor of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network. The Fair Trade network is a network of 83 community organisations concerned about the impact of trade agreements on social policy.

'The government will not publish the full text of the agreement for several weeks. This shows the dangers of secret trade negotiations when we are not told the details until after the deal is done,' Dr Ranald said.

'For example, the Australian government says that the price of medicines will not rise but the US emphasises that changes achieved to the process of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). We will need to see the full detail to assess whether those changes will affect prices, ' explained Dr Ranald.

'The Australian government says that current and future media content rules are protected but the US says that there is improved market access for US films and television programs on cable, satellite and the internet.' said Dr Ranald.

'The Foreign Investment Review Board will be retained but there will be no screening at all of US investments in new businesses. The threshold for investment in existing businesses has been lifted from $50 million to $800 million. This is a significant weakening of the ability of governments to review foreign investment in the public interest,' said Dr Ranald.

'We call on the government to publish the full text of the FTA now for public debate and subject it to full vote by parliament, not just by Cabinet.'