The Liberals’ disastrous 2004 US-Australia Free Trade Agreement continues to stuff us over royally:
A YEAR-long investigation of Australia’s free trade agreements has found they are often nothing of the kind.
The Productivity Commission has told the government there is little evidence to suggest Australia’s six free-trade agreements have produced ”substantial commercial benefits”.
Some may have actually reduced trade by introducing complex rules that make it difficult to sell goods made with products imported from countries not in the agreements.
And as for the IP rubbish we signed up for (in return for pretty much nothing other than the chance for John Howard to pretend he was influential on the world stage):
Copyright provisions inserted in the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement could eventually cost Australia as much as $88 million per year as the nation pays an extra 25 per cent each year in net royalty payments, ”not just to US copyright holders, but to all copyright holders”.
The copyright provisions extend payments from 50 years after an author’s death to 70 years and enshrine in Australian law ”rules that would otherwise be anti-competitive such as permitting the use of region codes on DVD players”.
The provisions have saddled Australia with copyright obligations ”even higher than in the US … because we matched their higher level of copyright protection but have maintained our lower level of copyright users’ rights”, the report says.
The net present value of the extra copyright costs imposed by the provisions agreed to by the Howard government when it signed a US-Australia agreement might amount to $700 million.
”And this is a pure transfer overseas, and hence pure cost to Australia,” the report says.
And it also affects medicine:
It finds provisions inserted in the US-Australia agreement granting drug manufacturers greater rights in their dealings with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme had real potential for adverse outcomes and that ”vigilance was required to ensure this did not arise”.
No wonder we re-elected Howard in 2004 after negotiating such a fantastic agreement!
But slow down there. It’s important not to rush to judgment. As the Liberals said after a similarly negative set of figures back in January 2006 (“Exports plummet in post-FTA trade”), “it would take at least five years to assess the success of the agreement”.
Well – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. Times up, you “great economic managers”, you. Got any more excuses?