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Government’s Free Trade Agreement rhetoric an insult to the collective national intelligence

Greens spokesperson for Trade, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, says the Government’s sales pitch for the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) is reaching hysterical levels.

Senator Whish-Wilson said, “Treasury wrote in the 2010 Blue Book that ‘the potential benefits of the Free Trade Agreements currently under negotiation [like ChAFTA] have been oversold and the negatives largely ignored,’ and this is exactly what we are hearing from the Government today.

“When I asked Treasury and DFAT if they had included modelling of the economic impact of agreements like ChAFTA in their future GDP projections they said they hadn’t because the impact would be too negligible to warrant being considered.

“Minister Robb promised ‘immediate benefits’ would flow from the Korea and Japan agreements but since they have come into force trade to Korea has fallen 16.1% and trade to Japan has fallen 14.9%.

“The Government loves to talk up the supposed benefits of these deals but are silent on the costs, like the $4.2 billion hit to revenue from reduced tariffs.

“The new temporary unskilled worker entry provisions are unprecedented and their impact on local workers deserves to be heavily scrutinised. So too does the open-ended and unresolved Investor-State Dispute-Settlement (ISDS) clause that may expose our nation to endless litigation simply for making laws in the public interest.

“The Prime Minister’s ‘you are with us or you are against us’ rhetoric over these agreements is an insult to the collective national intelligence, let alone voices like the Productivity Commission, and the Chief Justice of the High Court who have raised concerns about aspects of these deals.

“The government likes to use farmers for the front-line sales pitch for trade deals, while at the same time are putting on the back-burner reforms that would really help farmers, such as an ‘effect tests’ to limit the power of the supermarket duopoly and country-of-origin labelling, both of which would make them more competitive against cheaper imports.

“The public deserves to be informed about the trade-offs inherent with modern trade agreements so the community can come to their own conclusions, and not shouted at by an increasingly hysterical Prime Minister,” he concluded.

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