Archive for April 15, 2014


Like buying a house, it’s easy to get a free trade agreement if you don’t care what you get or how much you pay. Since coming to office, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has closed a number of free trade agreements in record time, and it shows. 

The so-called free trade agreement with Japan ensures Australia will not be able to export a single grain of rice to that country. Some tariffs will fall slightly, over the next 18 years, and many tariffs and quotas remain in place. It doesn’t sound very free, does it? 

You should be able to write a free trade agreement on a single page. The key sentence would be “there will be no restrictions on trade between Australia and Japan”. But of course these documents often top 1000 pages because that’s how long it takes to spell out all of the exceptions and exemptions. 

But don’t worry about the details, modern politics is about symbolism. Signing a fat document that lists all of the restrictions on trade between us and Japan is a good look as long as you do it at the Emperor’s house and call it a free trade agreement. It’s a pretty safe bet that no one will ever read it.

 Dr Richard Denniss is Executive Director of The Australia Institute, a Canberra-based think tank, http://www.tai.org.au 

webwewant

 

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You and others are launching a global campaign to ensure the legal protection of Web users’ rights internationally. What would you include in your personal Magna Carta for the Web?

Tim Berners-Lee: First, I would like us to have that conversation together. That is why we created webwewant.org. I want us to use this year to define the values that we as Web users are going to insist on. I would like every country to debate what that means in terms of their existing laws. In what areas must we enhance our regulations to guarantee fundamental rights on the Internet? The right to privacy must be in there, the right not to be spied on and the right not to be blocked. The commercial marketplace should be completely open. You should be able to visit any political website apart from the things that we all agree are illegal, nasty and horrible. Access to the Web is, of course, a fundamental right…

webwewant.org

%d bloggers like this: