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We monitor Australia’s international trade. We see poverty as the result of unequal global systems controlled by a handful of countries with developed economies. Trade is an important method of allowing global inequality to persist, through dumping, limiting the market access of poorer countries, and resulting in challenging labour rights conditions.
We draw attention to how this happens, challenge the Government to change their practices and stand in solidarity with our peers in the Global South who are working to protect people and the environment against the results of aggressive international free trade.
Why Monitor Trade?
AID/WATCH is concerned about the unequal nature of economic liberalisation and free trade policies which most often see larger, developed countries disproportionately benefit from trade agreements. This leaves developing countries having to endure stringent conditions that have a negative impact on people and the environment.
What is Aid for Trade?
The Government has recently revealed in June 2014 that aid-for-trade will become a significant part of the new aid budget. So what is aid for trade? Aid for trade is a broad term used to describe development assistance aimed at strengthening recipient countries’ ability to benefit from international trade. Aid for trade offers developing countries an assistance package that includes reforming trade policies and regulation with an aim of incorporating countries more heavily into the global free trade system.
Australia’s aid for trade expenditure in 2013-14 is estimated to be about $630 million or 12.5 per cent of Australia’s total Official Development Assistance. This is set to increase to a whopping 20%.
What’s wrong with Aid for Trade?
The Government concedes that poverty today mostly affects people living in middle income countries. Three quarters of the world’s extreme poor live in countries that have experienced rapid and sustained economic growth. Economic growth is what is being presented as the solution for poverty. Aid for trade policy fails to acknowledge that the poor and marginalised are not benefiting from economic growth and this policy ignores the significant evidence that shows that international trade and economic growth can lead to heightened income disparities and this has been the case in both India and China.
This policy doesn’t target the extreme poor, it facilitates Australia’s foreign policy objectives.
PACER-Plus – Australia’s trade agreement with the Pacific
We’ve campaigned in the past few years on the PACER-Plus Agreement currently being negotiated with Pacific Island Countries to draw attention to the negative impacts of pushing this agenda. PACER-Plus seeks to liberalise trade in goods, services and investment, as well as improve trade and investment facilitation and economic cooperation. It is also an example of how aid is used as a bargaining chip by Australia to further economic interests in the region without playing adequate regard to the possible negative impacts on the Pacific Island Countries. Potential impacts are significant such as undermining a key source of revenue for Pacific governments through the removal of tariffs. These are an important source of revenue for many Pacific island countries.
Australian and New Zealand imports under PACER-Plus will see countries such as Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu stand to lose at least $10 million dollars in annual government revenue with other countries set to lose at least 10 per cent of their annual government revenue – in some cases greater than their entire education or health budgets. Other impacts include closure of local businesses, loss of jobs and undermining customary land tenure systems which have broad impacts on the culture and society of these countries.
Who do we work with on this work?
We are a members of Our World Is Not for Sale and the Australian Free Trade and Investment Network. We also support the work of our friends at the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), Fiji and would encourage you to engage with their work.