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Australia-China FTA – hindering or enhancing the struggle for an independent Australia?

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Ned K.    

This month, June 2015, the Australian and Chinese Government representatives signed a Free Trade Agreement after a decade of negotiations. 

As Marx concluded over 100 years ago in an article On Free Trade, free trade starkly reveals the contradictions within capitalism. Contradictions between competing capitalists across national boundaries, contradictions between capitalists and workers and contradictions between the immediate interests of workers in one country and workers of another country. All this can be seen playing out now as different interests either praise or condemn the free trade agreements not only with China but with Japan and South Korea as well. 

For example the dairy industry see these agreements as an opportunity for growth and exports of manufactured dairy products while remaining automotive component manufacturers see them as a final blow to any chance they had of survival post-closure of Ford, Toyota and General Motors' Holden plants. Universities see these agreements with China and South Korea as an opportunity for more overseas students which may lead to more construction of apartments in Australian cities to house the students. However not all construction related companies will be happy as their locally produced building materials may see increased competition from imported product from China or South Korea. This 'winners and losers' tale could go on and on when investigating the impact on numerous other industries.

For workers in Australia, the free trade agreements will increase job insecurity and job unpredictability. No private sector job is secure under 'free trade capitalism', and state government employment has seen Labor Governments reverse their 'security of tenure' policies despite big struggles by public sector workers to preserve it or at least retard the process of job shedding and privatization or outsourcing.

The Australia-China Free Trade Agreement will continue the 200 year tradition in Australia of the settler society being developed by the labour of migrant workers, some of whom end up staying here and some of whom do not. It will also continue the deliberate strategy of the ruling class in Australia of trying to turn workers already in Australia against those who more recently arrive to earn a living to feed themselves and their families. The ruling class hopes that their catch cry "workers of the world compete" will defeat the advanced workers battle cry, "Workers Of The World Unite"!

Australia and Which Empire?

In a historical context, how will the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement impact on the long march for Australian independence? Especially given that just before the signing of the Agreement, it was reported in the Australian that for the first time "China swamps US as top investor" in Australia. In 2013-14 Chinese investment in Australia increased by 75% while US investment declined by 15%. The increase in Chinese investment was in resources, real estate and manufacturing.

In the mid-1980's a book called "Australia and the Empire" was written by Michael Dunn, a Sydney-based academic. He categorized Australia's development and its relationship to different empires since the British invasion in 1788 as follows:

1. Mercantilism. Where chartered trading companies, or monopolies, backed by the State, dominated colonial policy.

2 . Free Trade. Which overthrew those monopolies in the interests of Britain's world-wide expansion.

3. Imperialism under Britain. With the resurgence of new kinds of imperial monopolies for overseas investment, when Britain struggled to fashion its colonies into a defensive bulwark against European, American and Japanese competition.

4. Imperialism under the United States. When the 1939-45 war broke up the British Empire and thereby allowed America, with its economic and military strength, to overwhelm British possessions.
Dunn argued that all four periods were characterized such that "the dominant empires have beaten out the rhythms of Australia's development".

Is the rise of China in Australia's economic development to be the next imperial empire to encompass Australia? Or is to be an opportunity for the Australian working class who comprise over 80% of the population to utilize the coming period to rid Australia of US imperialism and maintain trade and investment relationships with China? Will China respect Australia's national independence and sovereignty and accept the Australian working class demanding and enforcing this respect?

The working class in Australia, in all its ethnic diversity and different circumstances of migration enriching it, has cherished and longed for independence and developed a culture of a fair go for all.  Advanced sections of the workers know that only socialism can effectively guarantee and protect that independence.

This is sure to continue and see off US imperialism from our shores and struggle against any aspiring imperial successor!


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