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Author Andrew Bragg says Australia needs to fight back against trade protectionism

Tuesday, 07 February 2017

Author Andrew Bragg says Australia needs to fight back against trade protectionism
MRC Director of Policy and Research: Andrew Bragg

 

Original article by ABC's Senior Business Correspondent Peter Ryan  

As Donald Trump's protectionist policies continue to ratchet up global nerves, the Australian Government is being urged to seek trade deals that don't rely on the United States.

Andrew Bragg, the director of policy and research at the Liberal Party-aligned Menzies Research Centre, says Australia needs to fight back against protectionism and find other trade deals to counter Mr Trump's isolationist stance.

Without having more "irons in the fire" to replace the doomed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Mr Bragg warns Australia could find itself an orphan in global trade, especially after the US sparks a trade war with China.

"I don't think we need to take dictation from Trump, certainly not on matters of great important like trade," Mr Bragg told The World Today.

"We need to have our fingers in many pies and irons in the fire. We can't afford to be flatfooted.

"We've been here before in the 1970s when the UK joined the European Common Market and our agricultural market was smashed."

Mr Bragg put his concerns into a book, Fit For Service, which will be launched by the Prime Minister in Canberra on Wednesday.

The book argues that while succumbing to creeping protectionism is not the answer, Australia needs to embrace opportunities and trade deals where farmers, winemakers, financial services and business can benefit.

Mr Bragg said Australia needed to pursue independent trade policies that act an an "insurance policy" against US isolationism.

"We can't afford to wait for instructions from Washington. It's incumbent on all of us to nourish trade trade just as big business did in the 1950s when Menzies open trade to Japan and the business community supported Bob Hawke in tearing down the tariff walls," Mr Bragg said.

But Mr Bragg added that Mr Trump could surprise the pessimists and emulate the anti-communist Richard Nixon who opened relations with China during his presidency.

Mr Bragg said there was a chance Mr Trump might go beyond the rhetoric and pull off a trade deal with China.

"That's eminently possible that Trump will reprise Richard Nixon and seek a free trade deal with Beijing and that's why we need to keep working within our region on deals like the TPP," he said.

Fit For Service includes the views of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and advice from his predecessors Tony Abbott and John Howard, who have differing thoughts on the extent of Mr Trump's protectionist stance.

 

Listen to Andrew Bragg here talking to Peter Ryan

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