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Sugar Helps Australia's Medicine Go Down

A Spoonful of Sugar Helps Australia's Medicine Go Down

"The only people celebrating the US Australia free trade agreement are Australia's ideological zealots who were prepared to sell out their country and the US companies that plan to plunder them', said Dr Jane Kelsey on behalf of ARENA (the Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa) .

'Everyone opposed the agreement. Farmers. Manufacturers. The film and music industry. University Vice-Chancellors. And the vast majority of Australians, who repeatedly said in opinion polls they wouldn't support any deal that signed away control over culture, services and medicines.

'Just like the war, the Howard Government refused to listen. They even tried to bury a report that said the deal would damage the Australian economy.

'Worse, the Australian Government lied to its people. Howard promised they wouldn't sell out Australia's culture sector or its pharmaceuticals scheme.

'Even the free-trade friendly Australian Labor Party has promised to force hearings of the Joint Select Committee on Treaties throughout Australia, because it's such a lousy deal.'

'There are critical lessons in this for New Zealand', said Dr Kelsey.

'Australia was desperate to grovel to the US and secure a deal. The US played the classic finesse. It pulled sugar from the table and wouldn't put it back until it got the goodies that Hollywood and US drug companies were demanding. Australia rolled over - in return for promises that the US would open its sugar markets some time in the future.

'If that's what happens to Australia as the US proxy sheriff in Asia, New Zealand will be totally screwed in any such negotiations.

'We are economically and geo-politically insignificant. The terms the US sets for any deal with us would be far more draconian and we have a much less diversified economy to survive the impact.

Dr Kelsey points out that increasing numbers of studies are questioning the benefits of bilateral deals. Claims of billion-dollar benefits have no credibility.

'The real impact is to tie us permanently to policies that Brash and ACT want, not what New Zealanders have voted for. It's about ideology, not benefits', she said.

'Recent US hit lists have objected to New Zealand's vetting of overseas investments and Fonterra's ownership and monopoly regimes. As in Australia, they don't like pharmaceutical prices being forced down by Pharmac.

'US Ambassador Swindell has made abundantly clear, one pre-condition for New Zealand being invited to negotiate such a lousy deal is the repeal of the anti-nuclear legislation. That's just to get into negotiations. US foreign policy demands won't stop there. Even if we comply, they might still say no.

Howard might be happy to make Australia an economic and political colony of the US. But it's time New Zealanders told our government to stop playing this dangerous game and tell the US to get lost'.

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