Past Free Trade Agreements ‘dud deals’: Xenophon

ABC Rural

By Clint Jasper

Photo: Nick Xenophon says previous free trade agreements have been ‘dud deals’ for Australian exporters. (ABC News)

Audio: Nick Xenophon discussing free trade agreements (ABC Rural)

Poorly negotiated free trade agreements (FTAs) are limiting the opportunity for Australia’s agricultural export growth, according to independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

Pointing to the widening trade deficits with existing free trade partners like Thailand and Chile, Senator Xenophon says it’s clear Australia has done poorly from the deals, as the deficits indicate more goods are flowing in from those countries than exports are leaving Australian shores.

He says, in addition, the fact that the full text of the agreement hasn’t been released points to the lack of transparency around the deals.

"Of course there are benefits, and I’m not against free trade, but this is about fair trade," Senator Xenophon said.

"We have a situation where it seems that those who have negotiated on behalf of Australia over the years have done dud deals."

But Liberal Senator for South Australia, Anne Ruston says it’s wrong to judge the merits and performance of a FTA on the basis of a trade deficit figure.

"Over a period of time, different countries produce different products, and the balance of trade terms that relate to particular economies may actually be influenced by a number of other things," Senator Ruston said.

"The cold hard reality is that we live in a global economy now and Australia is an exporting nation.

"If we think that we can continue to enjoy economic prosperity be selling to ourselves, I think we’re fooling ourselves."

Senator Ruston says releasing the full text of the agreement before been processed by both the Japanese and Australian parliaments would be a breach of protocol.