28 October 2003

Forget FTA without agriculture, say farmers

Australia should walk away from a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States if it fails to comprehensively cover agriculture, the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) said today.

Federation president Peter Corish said unless there was open access for Australian farmers to American markets, an FTA could actually hurt Australian agricultural industries.

'NFF has accepted that the FTA will not address the unfair and inefficient farm subsidies in the US, but at the very least, if it is a genuine free trade arrangement, then we call for unimpeded access for Australian farmers exporting to the US market,' Mr Corish said in a statement.

'Importantly, we seek this access up front and not subject to the long phase-in times which have characterised other FTAs reached by the US.

'These negotiations are not called 'one-tonne more' agreement negotiations or 'partial trade' agreement negotiations.

'They are free trade agreement negotiations and an outcome less than that for agriculture would be unacceptable, and in fact would discriminate against Australian farmers.'

The fourth round of negotiations between Australia and the US are underway in Canberra this week, with agriculture, intellectual property and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme key sticking points.

Fortunately we have the Man of Steel's Best Friend to protect us from predatory US trade negotiators.

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