Free Trade, low unemployment, worker’s rights, and a recovering economy…G’day from Australia

Australian economist Tim Harcourt is known as “The Airport Economist”, and is the J.W. Nevile Fellow in Economics at the Australian School of Business at The University of New South Wales. Harcourt is a world-renowned labor economist who spearheaded Free-trade compacts in Australia over the past decade. Badger Democracy interviewed Harcourt for the “Wisconsin Insurgent Radio Network” on Tuesday, July 17. His philosophy and the success of Australia present a challenge to the US – implement free-trade agreements that help and support the working middle class. The full interview can be heard on “The Wisconsin Insurgent Radio Network.” Highlights follow.

From a 2006 interview with ABC Adelaide, Harcourt states one of the principle responsibilities of capitalism:

“The most important thing is that we make sure that capitalism globally and nationally (Australia) delivers to the people…if you do the right thing socially as well as economically you can basically improve the lot of workers and their families.”

According to an Economic Policy Institute 2005 study, Wisconsin lost 25,403 jobs (1% of total jobs) in the first year of NAFTA being implemented. Australian exports are 16% of GDP, while US exports are 8% (WTO data). In addition, while US unemployment is stuck around 8-9%, Australia’s is 5% (Tim Harcourt interview).

“When we (Australia) opened up the economy, we’ve got to have a strong accord with the labor market. We’ve got to have universal health care, education, and labor market programs to ensure that workers are cushioned from the changes of the global market.

In Australia, we have very low unemployment relative to the US. We’ve got a global-trade engaged economy; and the export firms who took us into the global economy are the unionized firms…who pay on average about 16% higher wages than the rest of the economy.

“When you have people opening up an economy, but at the same time undermining collective bargaining and social protection, then that’s where you have a problem with globalization.”

 Harcourt gives perspective and demonstration of how economies can successfully be engaged on a global basis without destroying labor or the middle class; growing the full economy. A must-listen and share interview.

Tim Harcourt can be found at his website, The Airport Economist.


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