Open letter from experts supports Australian government action on value-added industries

June 5, 2024: An open letter signed by 73 academics, researchers and policy experts has supported the government’s Future Made in Australia policy for the development of value-added industries as an important change in direction from past neoliberal trade policies which prioritised exports of unprocessed minerals and agricultural products, leading to the decline of value-added manufacturing industries.

The letter defends this policy change from criticisms by neoliberal economists “trying to defend outdated laissez-faire thinking,” including trade policy which advocated that each country should specialise only in its most globally competitive exports and have no local policies for industry development and diversification.

The letter notes that this change in direction is part of a global trend away from neoliberal trade policies with high dependence on imports, which were discredited by the supply chain disruptions during the pandemic. The policy also supports the urgent need for government action to support reductions in carbon emissions and to develop the renewable energy industries needed for the transition to the green economy. Governments in the US, Europe and elsewhere are moving in this direction.

The letter urges further development of the policy, including further investment in vocational training, active use of government procurement to support domestic production and other measures to support sustainability and a circular economy, and strong support for workers’ rights, indigenous rights, women’s rights and high environmental standards to ensure that the benefits are broadly shared.

AFTINET has long criticised neoliberal trade policy and supported active local industry policies as part of trade justice policies based on human rights, labour rights and environmental sustainability. AFTINET convener Dr Patricia Ranald signed the letter in her capacity as an honorary associate at the University of Sydney.

The letter was featured in a Sydney Morning Herald article today.