With the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement already shaping-up as a bad deal for Australians, who face higher higher prices for pharmaceuticals and digital goods, it has now been revealed that US President Barack Obama is refusing to slash agricultural tariffs and import quotas, thus excluding Australian sugar and beef farmers from realising benefits. From Farm Weekly:
As the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations between 12 countries enter their final stages, sources involved said the United States was taking a protectionist view to the politically sensitive agriculture sector, ceding to intense lobbying by domestic farm groups…
A person familiar with the discussions said the US was taking a particularly “mercantilist” view on agriculture. Mercantilism is broadly defined as ensuring that the wealth of a country is created by having trade surpluses and is this often associated with protectionism.
In contrast, pro-free trade countries like Australia and New Zealand, which slashed their tariffs in the 1980s, generally believe that their economies and consumers benefit from cheaper and better imports and that foreign competition is good for the economy…
Australia was burned badly in the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), when the Howard Government stupidly agreed to include extensions to both patent and copyright terms, which has raised the cost of pharmaceuticals and copyrighted materials.
At the same time, access to US agricultural markets was heavily restricted under the AUSFTA, with large chunks of agriculture carved-out altogether, draconian price-based safeguards introduced protecting US horticulture (see Annex 3A), as well as complicated product ‘rules of origin’ numbering hundreds of pages.
Now, it looks like another Coalition Government is set to make the same mistakes again, granting the US further intellectual property and copyright protections for its pharmaceutical, technology and television/film entertainment sectors, without reciprocal arrangements for Australian farmers.
The question now is: will trade minister Andrew Robb have the cajones to walk away, as former trade minister Mark Vaile should have done with the AUSFTA, or will he sign a deal as a face-saving political exercise?
Given the amount of political capital invested by Robb in the TPP, I suspect the latter.