As I understand it, the world's largest economy, with most of its largest corporations, will get free and unfettered access to our markets, and the world's 40th or so largest economy (that's us) - whose locally owned corporations now consist entirely and solely of the management company responsible for licensing Puppetry of the Penis - will get free and unfettered access to a market which has dealt with the problem of wages cost by increasingly drawing on the services of a casual employment provider known as Mexico.
The free trade agreement has been offered to us as a consequence of our participation in the war on terrorism, the war on Iraq and next year's invasion of Spain - and given that it is seen as a reward, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that had we not gone, the US would have rebombed Darwin.
The major setback so far has been the attempt to rally the public behind Australian artists and the protection of local content, especially in the world of cinema. There are two reasons for this. One is the postmodern transformation of the nature of national identity in a globalised context, and the other is that Australian films suck.
Actually, I suspect the USFTA is dead on its feet. Any changes to the PBS, the cultural diversity rules or the single wheat desk in the FTA would need legislative action to bring them into force and they are not going to pass the Senate. The Hanson release has probably made a double dissolution (at which Hanson would need only half the quota she would need at a regular senate election) the very last thing John Howard wants. The US agriculture lobby is violently opposed to free trade in agriculture and unlikely to agree to any trade openings. 2004 is an election year and the electoral college empowers special interests.
The FTA has already left the building.