January 5, 2006
US sugar farmers say they will strongy oppose any changes to the FTA.
The US Sugar Alliance, representing cane and beet farmers, says it will lobby strongly against any further opening of the US market to Australian sugar.
Alliance spokesman Jack Rooney says Australia already has the fourth largest share of the American market, and has been granted extra quota this year in the wake of the US hurricanes.
He says American farmers totally oppose the inclusion of sugar in any free trade agreement (FTA).
"There’s no benefit certainly for US producers from that, and probably only very limited benefit for Australian producers," he said.
"Because if they force the US to take more sugar than we need, our market price will collapse, and then we’ve no value to our growers or to Australian growers."
The Federal Opposition says the Government must make sure that the nation’s sugar growers get a better deal agreement when it is reviewed in two month’s time.
Labor’s Jenny Macklin says Australian sugar growers should be a top priority.
"Mark Vaile promised two years ago, in fact January in 2004, that he would get sugar into the free trade agreement," she said.
"He failed, well this time we hope that the Howard Government will put a lot more effort into making sure that Australian sugar growers get access to the United States market."
There are calls today for Australia to scrap the free trade agreement.
Dr Elizabeth Thurbon from the School of Politics and International Relations at New South Wales University, says the trade figures released this week show the FTA is a dud for Australian farmers.
"This agreement can be terminated by either party by giving six month’s notice in writing," she said.
"Certainly our argument would be that the imperative to do that should be sooner rather than later.
"There is that option to terminate the agreement altogether and given what a dud deal it is, we would argue that that should be considered as an option by all Australians."