Australia – US Free Trade Agreement: A New Era in Corporate Control

June 7, 2004

Friends of the Earth’s Reclaim Globalisation collective is calling for the abolition of draft legislation to implement the Australia U.S. Free Trade Agreement. On Monday 7 June, Friends of the Earth Melbourne will stage a mock ‘wedding’ between John Howard and a number of corporations, to highlight the increased corporate presence in Australia that will result from the Agreement.

The Friends of the Earth action will take place at 10:30am outside the Senate Select Committee Hearing at the Institute of Management, 181 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda.

Reclaim Globalisation collective facilitator, Liz Turner says the agreement will lead to corporate influence in Australia that is unprecedented. “U.S. investors may be able to sue Australian governments if environmental and social service laws are considered ‘barriers to trade.’ This will happen if certain circumstances arise in the future, however the FTA does not spell out exactly what these circumstances are. Slightly different clauses in other Free Trade Agreements have led to corporations suing tax payers for billions of dollars.”

Ms Turner says the FTA would also make it much easier for large U.S. corporations to invest in Australia, as Foreign Investment Review provisions would change dramatically. “In most sectors, new American companies who wish to invest in Australia would only be reviewed by the Foreign Investment Review Board if they invest $800 million or more. This would lead to an inevitable increase in the number of American corporations in Australia who would not be subject to scrutiny, and who would take profits offshore.”

Ms Turner said the Agreement would also have devastating impacts on the environment in the area of GMO’s and quarantine. “The FTA contains provisions encouraging both governments to give ‘positive consideration’ to accepting the other country’s technical regulations on Genetically Modified foods. If Australia agrees to this, the GMO moratoriums that currently exist in Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia would be eradicated."

Ms Turner said, "The agreement would also undermine Australian quarantine by creating two new bi-lateral government bodies that would ‘facilitate trade’ in agriculture. The stated purposes of these bodies under the FTA say nothing about protecting Australia’s fragile environment from agricultural diseases."

The agreement also favours 'voluntary' and 'market based' approaches to environmental management, as opposed to binding environmental protection laws. "We are calling on the Senate Select Committee to recommend that no legislation be passed that would change Australian law to implement the agreement," Ms Turner said.

Further information or comment:
Liz Turner / Karrina Nolan
0403 920 195