Open trade creates well paid, secure jobs, improves our economic resilience, and contributes to economic growth and increased living standards for Australians.

Australia’s approach to negotiating trade and investment agreements, led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has served Australia well over many decades. Australia has a strong track record as a trading nation with an extensive architecture of bilateral and regional trade and investment agreements with over 30 partner economies. These agreements work to reduce barriers to international trade and investment for the benefit of Australian industry and consumers.

Throughout the inquiry to date the Committee has sought to understand Australia’s approach to the negotiation of trade and investment agreements to consider the effect of agreements on stakeholders and how the benefits of trade are shared across the community. As trade and investment agreements become more complex, Australia must ensure the level of transparency, accountability and oversight in its approach is commensurate to the potential impact of agreements on stakeholders, the public, and policy and law-making.

In this regard, the Committee has made 5 initial recommendations that it believes will strengthen Australia’s approach to negotiating trade and investment agreements, contributing to better trade negotiation outcomes and ensuring that agreements are of greatest benefit to the Australian community.

Throughout the inquiry, the Committee was particularly drawn to evidence outlining the importance of enhanced stakeholder consultation and engagement processes. More effective consultation can assist to avoid unintended consequences and ensure optimal outcomes, by better understanding the impact on stakeholders and utilising relevant insights and expertise.

The establishment of a tripartite trade advisory committee system across business, trade unions, and civil society can find an appropriate balance between transparency and confidentiality to ensure in-depth and informed feedback to government. Importantly, enshrining an advisory committee framework in legislation will ensure consistency and provide an enduring enhancement to Australia’s approach to trade negotiations over time.

The Committee will continue to explore the extensive evidence received during the inquiry to date and provide its final report in due course.

On behalf of my Committee colleagues, I would like to thank all those who have so far taken part in the inquiry process by providing written submissions and giving evidence at public hearings.

I would also like to thank my Committee colleagues and the Secretariat staff for their work on this inquiry to date.

Mr Steve Georganas MP