|A Deal with The Devil!|
Faced with the Americans pulling up their pants and going home, Australia made
an effort to bend over and agreed to the 'free trade' deal with the
US. Compromises on both sides meant that some things were included, some were
exempt and others are to be freed up gradually over the next two decades.
The details of what is and is not actually included in the deal are actually
not that interesting - both sides simply made a judgment about the electoral
damage that the special interest groups could inflict, and gave exemptions to
the groups would could cause the most damage. Like all tariff lists and quotas
it is really just a Who's Who of political favoritism.
The interesting thing to watch over the next few months and the lead-up to the
next election will be the political sophistry surrounding the decision. The
government will try to make the deal sound like the precursor to the second
coming - a bread and fishes miracle which will bring a new age of prosperity
and enlightenment to the Great Australian Nation. The ALP will try to make it
sound like a complete botch up which gives the USA a much better deal than
Australia. And the Greens and Democrats will try to outdo each other with
claims that it was a deal with the Great Satan (ie America), and how it will
make the dead rise and walk the earth.
Pretty much standard politics perhaps, but the ALP is set to do more squirming
on this issue than the other parties. The government can claim that 'trade
is good', the loony left can claim that 'all trade is bad', and
the ALP will have to try making the call about whether:
- The deal actually disadvantages Australia, and we would have been better
off walking away. Unfortunately this will make them look economically backward,
particularly as the Australian economy is doing quite well under the
stewardship of Little Johnny; or
- The deal actually benefits Australia but benefits the USA more, and John
Howard is too much of a pussy to cut a better deal for Australia at the
bargaining table. Unfortunately selling the idea that Mark (Maddog) Latham
yelling that Dubya is the most incompetent and dangerous president in living
memory and then successfully negotiating a trade deal with his administration
will be a hard sell.
The details of the deal are beyond most of us, and possibly beyond any of
us, to actually make an informed judgment on. But those who believe in net
benefits from unilateral trade are comforted by the fact that there are now
a few less people that our government forbids us to trade with, and a few less
trade barriers when we do.
Of course those of us who have heard terms like 'free education', 'free
speech' and 'free health care' abused so often in the past know that someone,
somewhere always pays a price.
Even when its 'free love', someone gets screwed.