Monday, January 03, 2005

Free trade plus 

I'm a big fan of free trade, so January 1 was a day to celebrate, as the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement finally went into operation.

But there is a postscript still waiting to be made:
"Australia is using its free trade agreement with Washington as a lever to negotiate improved temporary-entry visas for Australians working in the US and their spouses...

"In an interview to mark the US-Australia free trade pact coming into effect today, [Australian Trade Minister] Mr [Mark] Vaile said Australian negotiators had raised the issue of temporary visas.

"The free trade agreement between the US and Chile included provisions on visas, but the Congress judiciary committee that oversees immigration matters subsequently banned the US Trade Representative's office from negotiating on the visas, saying this involved security issues.

"Mr Vaile said there was nothing about migration in the Australian-US agreement, but there was a side letter in which US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick promised to help Australian diplomats to meet members of the Congress judiciary committee to press Canberra's case."
As Vaile said in his charming, no-nonsense way: "We said, hang on a minute, we're not Latin America... This is not Mexico. There's not boatloads of Australians heading over here, but we want reasonable treatment for Australian professionals and their spouses coming to work in the US, adding value to your economy. Bob Zoellick entirely understood that."

As you know from my frequent ravings about entry visa requirement for other "Willing", such as Poles, this is one of my pet topics, and I can only say amen to Vaile's efforts - not just because one day Mrs Chrenkoff and I would like to be the beneficiaries of such an opportunity to work in the US, but also as a matter of principle: if the security regime is not thus endangered, free movement of people (in both directions) is but the other side the free trade coin, particularly between two nations that share such high degree of political, economic and cultural kinship.


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