The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is an ambitious,
comprehensive, high standard and balanced agreement which would promote global
trade, provide new export opportunities for Australian businesses, increase
economic growth and support the creation of jobs in Australia.
While it is disappointing that the United States has made a decision to
withdraw from the TPP, the five years of negotiation has strengthened the links
between the participating countries and highlighted the benefits that can be
achieved through a modern regional trade agreement for the Asia-Pacific. The extensive
dialogue and the agreement reached between Australia and the other participating
countries will be a foundation for future trade agreements.
It is indisputable that trade delivers more opportunities for business
and more jobs. The submissions to the inquiry made clear that Australia
benefits when there is a well-regulated, fair and liberalised environment for
trade. Submissions from industry and businesses highlighted how tariff
reductions would increase economic activity, investment, production and create
employment. Australian service providers were eager to access new opportunities
to expand into overseas markets. Consumers would also benefit from increased
choice and consumer protections. Already the benefits for Australian businesses
and employees are evident as a result of Australia signing free trade agreements
with Japan, South Korea and China in recent years. This has been underlined by
recent record trade results for Australia.
As a middle-ranking open economy, Australia is more dependent on trade
than many others. However, Australia is fortunate to be located in a region
where an increasing proportion of global trade is occurring. Coalition senators
firmly believe that increasing trade and opening the door to new markets will
be vital to Australia's future economic prosperity.
It is important that the Australian Government keeps advocating for free
trade and maintains its commitment to make new trade agreements in Australia's
national interest. For example, in October last year, Minister Ciobo, with
his Singaporean counterpart Minister Lim Hng Kiang, signed an Agreement to
Amend the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
Further opportunities exist to expand Australia's trade with Mexico, Chile,
Peru and Canada in addition to countries in Asia through a regional trade
agreement. In this context, Coalition senators encourage the Australian
Government to work towards a regional trade agreement for the Asia-Pacific
which will benefit Australia and support Minister Ciobo's recent efforts to engage
with his counterparts to 'lock in the benefits' of the TPP negotiations.
Coalition senators note that pursuing a broad regional trade agreement continues
to have the support of Australian business and farm groups. For example, National
Farmers Federation Chief Executive, Mr Tony Mahar, has said the benefits of the
landmark deal were too significant for Australia's farming sector to give up.
He stated that the opportunities presented by the TPP had the potential to be 'transformational'
for Australia's export sector with gains for commodities across-the-board
including red meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables, cotton, wool, sugar, grain and
seafood. He noted that while it would be preferable for the United States to be
a participating country 'the most significant gains for Australia lie with the
deals struck with Japan, Mexico, Argentina and Canada'.
Similarly, the wine sector has urged that Australia 'must do everything
in our power to ensure the agreement comes into force'. Mr Tony Battaglene,
Chief Executive of the Winemakers Federation of Australia (WFA), considered that
there were potentially 'tremendous' opportunities for the wine sector and 'the
promise of wealth creation in regional Australia as well as to the national
economy'. He observed that the deal struck was the first agreement to
specifically address significant nontariff trade barriers restricting export
growth and that it would provide a template for future agreements. He stated:
...WFA has called on all parties to get behind the Free Trade
agenda. The worst thing for the prosperity of the Australian people will be to
embrace protectionism. We need strong export growth and trade liberalisation
through Free Trade Agreements is key to our success.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Export Council of Australia (ECA),
Ms Lisa McAuley, has noted that 'Australia simply cannot afford to go
backwards on trade'. The ECA 'stands behind the Australian government's focus
to pursue an alternate agreement under the TPP framework'.
In the current international environment, the lack of support
for agreements such as the [TPP] from the new US administration does not have
to mean the end of the agreement. Rather, this can present a new opportunity
for Australia and other like-minded nations to take the lead on creating new
market openings for our companies, and ensure the jobs and prosperity of
tomorrow are as secure as possible. Australia must therefore continue to pursue
new liberalising trade deals, as well as other international agreements that
prioritise the interests of prosperity-creating SMEs.
The peak sugarcane farming group, Canegrowers has outlined that the
withdrawal of the United States from the TPP has meant that an improved
framework for selling sugar in the Asia-Pacific has been lost for the
foreseeable future. It has urged the Australian Government to continue to work
to close a TPP deal with the remaining participating countries. Further, it has
commented that there is now more significance to 'the other avenues Australia
is negotiating for improved trade access – a stronger deal with China, the
Asia-focused Regional Cooperative Economic Partnership and free trade
agreements with the European Union and United Kingdom'.
Coalition senators recognise that it is the responsibility of the
Australian Government to take the next steps in relation to strengthening
Australia's trade relationships with the participating countries. In the
future, this may include the introduction of implementing legislation as a
strong signal of support to our major trading partners for a broad regional
trade agreement. In this context, it is important that the bipartisan support
for trade and open markets which has existed in Australian politics for decades
is maintained. It is vital that there continues to be clear statements from all
sides of politics that Australia rejects protectionism and encourages open
trade within our region.
Coalition senators support the recommendations made by the Joint
Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) in assessing the TPP. In particular, that
the Australian Government consider possible reforms to two specific areas of
the treaty-making process:
changing the approach to free trade agreement negotiations to
permit security cleared representatives from business and civil society to view
the Australian Government positions being put as part of negotiations; and
the provision of independent modelling and analysis of proposed trade
agreements to JSCOT.
If undertaken, these will be significant reforms to the
treaty-making process and will require careful assessment.
Chris Back Senator
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page