From SMH - www.smh.com.au
Drop free trade agreement with US: ACTU
June 20 2003
The Federal Government should abandon discussions on a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, ACTU President Sharon Burrow said today.
Ms Burrow's call came after Toyota said it would consider shutting its carmaking plant in western Melbourne if an FTA with the United States led to tariff cuts.
"Politicians cannot stand by while Australian industries and jobs are threatened by the sheer size and dominance of the United States," Ms Burrow said in a statement.
"Australia's car industry, film and television production, financial services sector, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and government procurement programs must not be put at risk for the sake of (Prime Minister) John Howard's friendship with (US President) George Bush."
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Doug Cameron said scrapping the 15 per cent tariff protection on the local car industry would make it uncompetitive.
"Specifically in the car industry, the United States are demanding that all tariffs disappear and all industry support goes," he told ABC Radio.
"That would mean our industry, given the deliberate decision of the United States to devalue its dollar, would become highly uncompetitive against the huge American car industry."
Toyota spokesman Peter Griffin dismissed a report in today's The Australian newspaper that the company could consider shutting down its Melbourne plant which plans to produce a record 117,000 cars this year and employs 3,000 workers.
But Toyota was concerned about the potential impact of the FTA.
"We will continue to talk to the government over the progress of the FTA," he said.
"Our view would be that if we are to head down that path, then perhaps we should look at a reduction in tariffs which is in line with the government's already announced industry policy to reduce tariffs to 10 per cent in 2005, five per cent in 2010, which is getting us to a low tariff environment anyway."
A government spokesman said there were some differences of views about the pace of tariff reductions and other aspects of the FTA negotiations.
Hmm - is this bad journalism on The Australian's part (that TA will pull a Nissan) or is there some truth to it ?
I personally don't think TA will pull out after spending so much money to create a design house and expectations that it may build Toyota's soft roader - the Kluger on a third line at altona.
I think they will stay and this may just be scare tactics by the ACTU - although one could see an awful lot more of the american stuff arriving here once the FTA is passed. Chrysler, afterall is waiting in the wings.
I also find it humorous how Toyota Australia just opens up its big cataloge of cars to find a competitor (Kluger with camry underpinnings) for the upcomming softroaders - Cross8/Territory.