Democrats Condemned for Free Trade Opposition

The Business Council of Australia was appalled by the Australian Democrats' opposition to the free trade agreement with the United States, saying it would undermine Australia’s standing in the Asian region to achieve similar trade deals.

“The Democrats' sudden and ill-considered decision to block the agreement will potentially have ramifications for Australia forming similar Agreements with China and the ASEAN nations,” BCA President, Mr Hugh Morgan said.

“Discussions on trade agreements are sought by these economies because Australia has developed a reputation for promoting free trade and has demonstrated that it can negotiate a trade agreement with the world’s largest economy.

“The Democrats' announcement, which was clearly not thought through, could undermine not only a FTA with the world’s biggest market, but potential agreements with other major economies.

“Their announcement comes before two separate parliamentary analyses of the US FTA have concluded,” he said. “The Democrats should resign from the Senate Select Committee and JSCOT inquiries on the FTA on the basis they appear already to have made up their mind without following due process.”

Mr Morgan said the Democrats had a responsibility to all Australians to make sure the best interests of the nation are promoted, not just a few sectional interests opposing the agreement out of self-interest.

“The Democrats' statement shows a disregard for the importance of trade to Australia’s long-term growth and a lack of understanding of the international movement towards trade agreements by competitors and regional trading partners.

“If, as they suggest, the agreement is so bad for Australia, why are US trade negotiators going to such great lengths to convince legislators there the deal has not given Australia the upper hand?

“Clearly, it involves a two-way exchange of benefits, and an opportunity for Australia that is unlikely to come our way again if rejected.

“While the Democrats' position is extremely disappointing, their decision makes it all the more important that other parties involved the legislative approval process for the US FTA take a more considered position,” Mr Morgan said.