Free Trade Agreement: A New Era in Corporate Control

March 31, 2004

Environment and social service groups are calling for the abolition of draft legislation to implement the Australia US Free Trade Agreement.

Friends of the Earth Australia believe this deal will undermine essential public services and put the environment further at risk, largely for the benefit of U.S. corporations. “The Agreement would pave the way for a new era of corporate control in Australia”, says Liz Turner, facilitator of Friends of the Earth’s Reclaim Globalisation collective. “The FTA represents a giant leap towards Australia embracing corporatisation.”

The FTA legislation contains an 'expropriation' clause in the investment chapter which means that new Australian environmental laws which threaten the profits of U.S. companies are open to challenge. Examples are the introduction of a carbon tax or a ban of genetically modified crops.

Public services with the exception of existing government services such as primary education and other social services which are ‘established or maintained for a public purpose’ would be opened up for competition with US companies. This would include government-provided public transport, childcare, health services, higher education, water and electricity.

American pharmaceutical companies will be able to appeal a decision to not include their products in the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This will mean the inclusion of many expensive American pharmaceuticals, leading to a price rise for Australian tax-payers. Under the FTA ,pharmaceutical companies will also be allowed to review price determinations of their products.

Friends of the Earth is encouraging public submissions to be made to the Joint Standing Committee into Treaties (JSCOT) – deadline 13 April, email submissions to jsct@aph.gov.au .and the Senate Select Committee – deadline 30 April, email submissions to fta@aph.gov.au .

Friends of the Earth is also supporting a public meeting to be held at the Melbourne Town Hall on Wednesday 21st April at 7:30pm.

Further information or comment:
Liz Turner
Ph: 9419 8700
liz.turner@melbourne.foe.org.au