MORE international trade, not less, is the key to global peace and prosperity.
That is the message USA Ambassador to Australia J Thomas Schieffer had for a lunch gathering at the Parmelia Hilton last week, the fourth in the WA Business News’ Meet the Ambassador series.
Mr Schieffer said while bilateral relations between Australia and the US were good, a Free Trade Agreement between the two nations would lead to greater prosperity for citizens and would have a positive effect on Australia’s trade with other countries.
“We live in a globally integrated economy. We have found over again, that the key to prosperity is more trade, not less.
“It is not a situation where we should be arguing about what our slice of the pie will be. It is a situation in which we can legitimately say that we are about to make the pie bigger.”
Mr Schieffer rebutted fears about American intentions in wanting a Free Trade Agreement with Australia.
He said the US had no desire to dismantle the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme, but would call for increased transparency and an appeals process to represent the case if it was adverse to American pharmaceutical companies.
Of the cultural imperialism issue, Mr Schieffer said America wanted trade to be market-driven based on the 55-45 rule with 55 per cent being local content and 45 per cent being foreign content.
On agriculture, Mr Schieffer said it was a difficult issue in the negotiations with the US wanting more access into Australian markets and Australia wanting more access into US markets.
Mr Sheiffer said US foreign policy post September 11 and its aftermath marked an end to the cold war era.
“In the years ahead I think people will look back on September 11 in the US and around the world and view it as the end to the Cold War era – in so far as how we deal with certain threats,” he said.
“I think that the rules that were written in 1945 [the start of the cold war era] are now being rewritten because the threats are much different.
“Whether it is JI [Jamaah Islamiah] in Indonesia or Al Qaeda or a long list of others, they don’t come to the table with a specific agenda. ‘If you do this, we will stop the terrorism’. They basically decided to commit the acts and then later they tell you why.
“This is an issue that we are going to be dealing with for a long time and it is an issue that is going to affect our foreign policy.”
Mr Schieffer said the world was still learning to deal with the issues of failed and rogue states that produced terrorists, in so far as they affected foreign policy.
“It’s much like the situation we had at the end of World War II. We develop doctrines and strategies, but they will evolve over a period of time,” he said.
However, Mr Schieffer said it was important to distinguish between trade, foreign policy and national security.
He said an important part of US foreign policy included improving trade between nations.
“The more people come together and the more they see each other in a commercial sense, the more likely there is to be peace in the world. I think you only have to look to our relationship with China to see what I’m talking about,” Mr Schieffer said.
“China has been very cooperative in dealing with issues like North Korea. The relationship between China and America is probably better than it has ever been in my lifetime.”
The next round of free trade negotiations are scheduled for October 10 in Canberra, with another round to be held in Washington in December.
Mr Schieffer said it was hoped the December round of negotiations would be the final round or risk delaying the FTA getting passed in American Congress.
“What the President [George Bush] would like to do is to take a negotiation agreement to the US congress for its approval. In our system of government we have to have congressional approval and the President believes that chances for congressional approval are much greater earlier in the year than later in the year because in November 2004 we are going to have an election,” he said.
“The closer you get to election, the more people think about politics and the less they think about policy.”
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