Chair's Foreword

This report outlines the significant role Australia can play in the Indo-Pacific region, by Australia continuing to embrace its ambitious free trade agenda and supporting the expansion of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The CPTPP is a free trade agreement between 11 economies including Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam and this inquiry examined the merits of expanding the membership to other economies as a vehicle to realise freer trade opportunities.
The Trade Sub-Committee believes Australia should support the expansion of the CPTPP to include new members that support an open, transparent and stable trading environment in the Indo-Pacific, demonstrate an ability and willingness to meet the agreement’s high standards, and offer export potential through enhanced market access.
There will be much the Australian Government can learn from its experience with the United Kingdom as the first aspiring economy to formally request accession to the CPTPP, and the process that has applied to the United Kingdom could be leveraged as a template for future aspirant economies. At the time of writing, the process for the United Kingdom continues and it is the view of the Committee that the Australian Government should work with other CPTPP members to encourage and facilitate its accession.
The inquiry received evidence on three other economies that have either formally applied to join the CPTPP – China and Taiwan – or confirmed their intent to do so – South Korea. Since these aspirant economies are at different starting points with respect to their demonstrable willingness, ability and readiness to join the CPTPP, the Committee deliberated on each separately. Nevertheless, the Committee applied a consistent approach to assessing all potential new members and to formulating our recommendations.
The Committee believes the Australian Government should continue to treat the CPTPP as an open agreement and support aspiring members that demonstrate a willingness to comply with CPTPP rules and norms.
I thank my Deputy Chair Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, my fellow committee members, the committee secretariat and Senator the Hon David Fawcett as Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.
I also acknowledge and appreciate all the efforts of those who have participated in the inquiry by writing submissions or appearing at public hearings despite the travel limitations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Ted O’Brien MP
Trade Sub-Committee

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