The Textile Clothing & Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) earlier today slammed the weekend’s announcement by Trade Minister Simon Creen that a Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN countries had been signed.

TCFUA National Secretary, Ms Michele O’Neil said she was dismayed that the Australian Government could enter into the ASEAN FTA for a number of reasons.

‘In terms of our industry, this FTA appears to ignore the Government’s agreed schedule of tariff reductions in a number of key product areas. Tariff reductions hurt Australian manufacturers and their workers and we are outraged that this FTA will undermine the scheduled reductions which were announced close to a decade ago.’ O’Neil said.

‘How is the industry supposed to adapt to increased reductions, some of which take effect this year?’ she asked.

‘The TCFUA is astounded that the Government could deliver such a blow, particularly in the context of the global financial crisis. It speaks volumes to us about the lack of coherent Government policy in this area and about the lack of support for local industry’ Ms O’Neil said.

The TCFUA are calling on the Government for an urgent response to the Report of the Federal Government Review of the TCF industry, which was released to Government in August 2008.

‘This example highlights the need for an effective and coherent industry policy which must be implemented immediately’.

The union is also shocked that the Australian Government would encourage open trade with the Burma regime. Ms O’Neil deplored this policy stating that it sent a bad message to a repressive regime responsible for numerous grave human rights violations.