Friendless free trade

TTp trade world travelThe Australian Financial Review recently published two news stories:

Nationals could get two extra spots but Malcolm Turnbull holds policy line:

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pushed back against any Nationals demands for policy changes after their good election showing, saying any new policy proposals will have to go through normal Cabinet processes and not be part of a Coalition agreement for government…”

Steve Ciobo to ‘redouble’ efforts to convince voters of free trade benefits:

“Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has vowed to push against the tide of protectionism revealed in the latest election results, saying the government will meet crossbenchers to discuss their opposition to foreign investment and trade deals and redouble its efforts to convince Australians of the benefits…”

As admirable as Minister Ciobo’s vow is, the Liberal Party should be every bit as concerned about those supportive of protectionism on the government side, as the attitudes of the crossbenchers’ and lower house independents. For example in the last parliament alone the Nationals opposed foreign investment in Australian agriculture by both US giant Archer Daniels Midland and a Chinese-led consortium. The assorted populists in the Parliament aren’t the only ones exploiting anti-free trade sentiment.

Even among the Liberal voting base, there are those who are not entirely opposed to Australia shifting away from the economic liberalism which has enriched our country. Opposition to free trade is growing and those opposed to protectionism need to be vigilant. Here’s hoping Minister Ciobo has a killer comms strategy and the PM can hold the line.

Trisha Jha is a policy analyst at the Centre for Independent Studies