Labor’s decision today to back the United States Free Trade Agreement was welcomed by the Business Council of Australia, which urged federal Parliament to pass the necessary legislation as soon as possible.
The BCA, which represents Australia’s leading companies, said it was pleased that the ALP had displayed its commitment to trade growth by signing on to an historic agreement.
BCA President, Mr Hugh Morgan, said business recognised it was a difficult issue on which to reach political agreement but the right decision had been made in the national interest.
“While progress had been made on WTO talks in recent days, the US FTA remained a critical part of Australia’s trade strategy,” Mr Morgan said.
“The implications of walking away from an agreement that has already been negotiated with the world’s largest economy would have been immense.”
The ALP has proposed two amendments with which the Business Council of Australia has no significant concerns.
“The two issues raised by the ALP are not fundamental to achieving parliamentary approval and should not be used to block such an important agreement,” Mr Morgan said.
The first involves shifting the decision on lowering the level of local content in the media from the Australian Broadcasting Authority to federal Parliament.
“While it may be better for the Australian audio visual industry to maintain more flexibility than legislation can provide, this amendment would not impact on the overall agreement and should not be an overriding concern for Parliament,” he said.
The second amendment proposed by the ALP is designed to prevent ‘ever-greening’ of patents in Australia.
Australia currently has strong patent laws that prevent spurious patent claims. The BCA believes the proposed amendment is unnecessary because the Agreement does not impact on the strength of Australia’s patent laws, but it should not impede parliamentary approval of the FTA.
The Australia–US Free Trade Agreement has been closely assessed through the independent inquiry process of the Senate Select Committee over the last five months and business also welcomed the committee’s overall assessment that the agreement should be supported.