Free trade with Australia?

It is widely known that the United States and Australia have been working on a free trade treaty. It is less widely reported how the treaty would handle culture. The Australian government feels it has been taking an unpopular stance, and has been reluctant to publicize the likely outcome. So what might the treaty bring?

The proposed deal caps the amount of local [Australian] content at existing levels of 55 per cent on free-to-air commercial television and 25 per cent for commercial radio, and at 10 per cent on pay TV.

If the government reduces these content levels, they cannot be raised again.

The deal also prevents the government from regulating local content levels for new media without consulting the US, which can challenge any proposed changes.

McLeod’s Daughters actress Bridie Carter told the hearing that the agreement would trade away Australia’s cultural identity.

That’s 55 percent local content, Bridie, hardly the death of Australian culture. Why not just shut out American TV altogether? And what does 2004 hold for Bridie’s show McLeod’s Daughters?

Life on Drovers Run in 2004 offers new faces and unexpected surprises [sic], heartache and laughter, and for two-star-crossed lovers, a wedding.

How about this remark:

“The Free Trade Agreement … threatens to reduce what is left of the vibrant Australian voice to a mere whisper in the future.”

In reality Hollywood gives Australian directors and stars a world platform that they otherwise would not have. Peter Weir, Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson earn huge box office around the world.

Here is the full story.

By the way Pat Boone just issued a call for cultural censorship. When will it become clear that cultural protectionism is simply another attack on free speech?

Here is a recent article on the (slow) progress of U.S.-negotiated trade agreements around the world.