Conference on an Australia-China FTA

Highlights of the day-and-a-half “APEC Center conference(pdf version of the conference program)”: on the proposed FTA with China: * Paul Kelly’s comments on why the creation of a closer relationship with China has already begun and why it helps to create a desirable future for Australia. Kelly recalled the iconic decision of Australia’s conservative government to offer both the Chinese the US Presidents last year, within a week of each other, an honour never accorded to any European or any other Asian head of government—an opportunity to address a joint sitting of the Parliament. In a short speech Kelly developed a theme that he “described in more depth(pdf file, about 100k)”: a couple of years ago on what he calls a ‘national project’ to develop a more secure future prosperity for Australia. * Foreign Minister Alexander Downer’s dialogue with the Chinese Ambassador (Mme. Fu Ying) on whether a free trade agreement with China will have an easier passage through Parliament than the US Free Trade Agreement (no, probably more difficult because China represents a bigger opportunity, a bigger challenge and there is less sentimental attachment) and on the opportunities for manufacturing and services industries in China (that should far outweigh concerns about anti-dumping policy changes) * Andrew Stoler’s dissection and comprehensive quashing of the case for continuing to treat China as an ‘economy in transition’ in our anti-dumping laws (“.. a completely uncessessary poke in the eye for China”). Removing China from this list is the full practical consequence of the grant of ‘market economy status’ that China has demanded as a precondition for negotiation of an FTA * Upbeat projections by Denny Mooney (Managing Director, Holden) of the GM subsidiary’s sales and opportunities in China. It’s very likely that some manufacturing unionists—such as Doug Cameron (“AMWU”:—will continue their ludicrous campaign against the ‘treachery’ of trade agreements that mean cuts to our already-low levels of manufacturing protection. It is reassuring to learn that some of their employers are prepared to present the facts with as much conviction. * Long Yongtu’s diplomatic, but unmistakable, “catalogue of demands”: for the Agreement itself * Closing remarks from Ashton Calvert (Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) who said the success of the proposed Agreement should be judged by its contribution to the trade and economic opportunities of each side. With one piece of common sense he implicitly discounted quite a bit of of ponderous talk from security analysts about building the bilateral relationship in order to manage potential “strategic” dilemmas for Australia (relationships with the USA and China) in the event of a conflict across the Straights of Taiwan.

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