AMWU: FTAs could hurt manufacturers, lead to expensive drugs

The AMWU has re-stated its opposition to the federal government’s eagerness for free trade agreements with the United States and several Asian nations.

As reported earlier this week, trade minister Andrew Robb has been tasked with trying to reach agreements with Japan, South Korea and Japan, as well as a Trans Pacific Partnership, which would include the United States and a number of other nations, such as Singapore and Malaysia.

The AMWU believes that liberalised trade could lead to more expensive medicines for Australians, tougher conditions for Australian manufacturers, and even foreign companies suing the Australian government through Inter State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions.

Some have concerns that US drug companies would try to dismantle the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which is seen as an impediment to them in Australia.

Andrew Dettmer, national president of the AMWU, has said that caution is necessary.

“Australia, unlike most of our trading partners, has an open economy and few barriers to imported goods,” he said in a statement.

“This already makes it difficult for Australian manufacturers who often face unfair barriers when they try to export.”

Robb is headed to Washington for trade talks on October 30, followed by visits next month to South Korea, Japan and China.

Some industries, particularly agriculture and food processing, are strongly in favour of liberalised trade with Asia, but there are concerns elsewhere with issues such as ISDS provisions, which the AMWU says is an issue for even the pro-business Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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