Canberra, February 04, 2014
“One can change a country by changing trade and industrial policy,” said Peter Varghese, Foreign Secretary of Australia. He was speaking at the 15th CUTS 30th Anniversary Lecture in Canberra yesterday on the subject of “Trade and Domestic Reforms: The Australian Experience”.
Comparing the generations of economic reforms in Australia, Varghese underlined that by placing consumers at the centre of policy thinking, one can attend crucial social objectives of development. “Through a sustained domestic reforms programme for an open, market-driven economy, Australia has attained greater competitiveness and prosperity,” he added.
While welcoming the guests, CUTS Secretary General, Pradeep S Mehta said: “For trade policy to be an effective instrument of development, one needs to adopt a whole-of-government approach to policy-making and implementation and that requires more effective regulatory regimes.”
Mehta highlighted that for trade to be an effective tool of development, one needs to see and feel the benefits of trade liberalization and there should be convergence between trade and public interest goals. In this context, he underlined the need for adopting a Geneva Consensus for Trade which should be based on balanced rules.
He also emphasized on the need for developing a broader competition culture within and across borders so that there is continuous enhancement of productivity and good governance and, for that to happen in a balanced manner, he highlighted why a multilaterally agreed regime on trade and competition policy linkages is needed.
The event was organized in partnership with the Australia South Asia Research Centre of the Australian National University, which is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. More than 75 participants attended the event, chaired by Professor Margaret Harding, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) of the Australian National University.
Dr. Varghese emphasized that foreign direct investment is an important part of trade liberalization agenda and this is one of the subjects of Australia’s focus on free trade agreements.
Speaking on the occasion, Professor Raghbendra Jha, executive Director of Australia South Asian Research Centre, underlined the importance of trade reforms in the context of India’s food security regime. In order to make this regime more effective in terms of its reach and efficiency, he noted that trade reforms could be an effective tool.
Dr. Shiro Amstrong of the Australian National University spoke about Japan’s experience on trade reforms. He questioned whether Japan’s economic partnership agreements were trade-free or not. He underlined that Japan’s external trade policy is not closely connected to domestic economic reforms.
Following the presentations, many participants expressed their views that there should be more emphasis on transformative, particularly consumer welfare, effects of trade policy reforms and anti-competitive dimensions of emerging trade policies, particularly as a result of more stringent intellectual property regimes, should be looked at more specifically. They also underlined the need to have a closer look at linkages between trade and inequality.
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