China FTA could ‘hollow out’ Australia’s manufacturing capacity: unions

The ACTU,
AMWU and other union bodies have said the China free trade agreement, signed
yesterday, could be potentially devastating for local manufacturers.

The Australian reports that Ged Kearney, national president of the ACTU, has said
that the precedent of the Korean Australian Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) was
worrying.

“We
are concerned that the content of this agreement will accelerate the hollowing
out of Australia’s manufacturing capacity, by way of contrast with the
relatively economically simple and low employment industries of agriculture and
mining, putting the advanced status of our economy in jeopardy,” Kearney and
other union leaders wrote in a letter to the major parties and crossbenchers.

The
concerned unionists said, citing the KAFTA deal, that Chinese contractors could
ignore local workers and import those from their home country, and there were
concerns around the potential inclusion of an inter-state dispute settlement
provision.

Mark Lennon
of Unions NSW was similarly grim about the possible impact of the FTA, telling Fairfax that, “We are concerned
about any proposals that would allow Chinese companies to bring in their own
workforce at the expense of jobs in NSW.”

He also criticised what he said was a weakening of anti-dumping
measures.

Others were
more optimistic about the effect of the agreement, with corporate advisory firm
Grant Thornton Australia saying earlier this week that the industry should
identify ways it could play a bigger role in China’s supply chain.

“The
industry should… focus on how we develop relationships with China and
capitalise on such relationships to benefit most from the anticipated FTA
initiatives,” said the firm’s National Head of Manufacturing, Mark Phillips, in
a statement. 

Image: Nic Kocher/Fairfax