China FTA could kill struggling manufacturers: AMWU

The Government’s expected FTA with China could cause the death of struggling Australian manufacturers, according to the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).

National Secretary Paul Bastian said in an AMWU statement that the Abbott government appears to want to rush the deal in order to have it concluded during the weekends G20 summit in Brisbane.

He said the haste to conclude a decade of negotiations so Mr Abbott could sign the agreement during Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s visit had put Australia’s trade negotiators in a hopeless bargaining position.

Bastian said he had zero confidence in the Abbott Government to protect Australian jobs from imports of Chinese workers on Chinese-owned projects at inferior wages and conditions.

“We’ve seen this Government try to declare a special zone in the Northern Territory to bring in lower-paid labour on 457 visas,” he said. “Its claims that this wouldn’t be extended to allow Chinese workers being exploited at the cost of local jobs just can’t be believed.”

The AFR reports that Abbott Government is preparing to sign the first stage of a two stage deal on Monday. This will mean that the government meets its planned deadline for the deal but also leave time for further negotiations on unresolved issues.

According to a source quoted by the AFR, agriculture and services will be well covered by the agreement. In addition, Australia is likely offer concessions to investment restrictions on state-owned companies but will not allow an influx of cheaper Chinese labour.

According to the source, the deal would be structured to enable alterations in coming years.

Speaking at the L20 international labour conference in Brisbane, AMWU president Andrew Dettmer attacked Trade Minister Andrew Robb’s prediction the China deal would turbo-charge Australia’s small high-end manufacturing sector.

“Mr Robb rhetoric is fairy tale when we’re dealing with thousands of members’ jobs under threat with the demise of car manufacturing,” he said.

“We risk more cheap manufactured imports leaving us as a primary producer, a farm and a quarry for the world’s largest nation.”