The deal ‘many said would never happen’: TPP’s $13.7bn economic access

Malcolm Turnbull says Australia has succeeded in securing a deal “many said would never happen” in signing the TPP-11 agreement in Chile overnight.

“This has been a very important day for trade, for Australian jobs and Australian exports,” the Prime Minister said.

“The signature of the trans-Pacific partnership, or the TPP-11, in Santiago, was something that many said would never happen.

“In fact you remember when Donald Trump pulled out of the TPP after being elected President, many people, including Bill Shorten notoriously said I was wasting my time trying to keep the trade deal going, it was a “vanity project”, he was filled with scorn.

“What that told you was that he gives up on Australian jobs. I don’t. I kept at it, meeting here in Sydney with (Japanese Prime Minister) Shinzo Abe not long after that.

“We resolved to press ahead and we’ve had that success and now it has been signed and this will provide substantial additional access for Australian exports in all the other countries of the TPP, 11 nations including our own, and the fact is because the deal is now signed, it is something to which the US could return at some point in the future, and to which other countries can join.

“The UK’s already expressed interest post-Brexit, and there are number of other countries in our region that have shown great interest.”

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said Labor had always approached trade by looking at the effect deals would have on the Australian economy and on jobs.

“We hope the government will take up our suggestion of ensuring that there is independent modelling to demonstrate the benefit of the trans-Pacific partnership Mark II,” Senator Wong told Sky News.

“I’ve made the broader point though, as foreign affairs spokesperson, that there is an additional strategic benefit to the countries of the region, particularly at this time, coming together to engage in these sorts of arrangements.

“It is the case that co-operation on trade, co-operation on economic prosperity is a good thing for peace and stability.”

TPP gives $13.7bn economic access

Earlier, Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said the TPP-11 agreement would not only benefit Australian agriculture, but other industries including education, financial and professional services and advanced manufacturing, giving them access to $13.7 billion in economic activity.

Speaking from Santiago, Chile, where Australia has signed the agreement with 11 other Pacific Rim countries, Mr Ciobo said the deal would secure “fantastic outcomes” for agriculture.

“But it’s broader than that. It’s also the great work that we have in terms of services exports, and in particular as you know, we employ a lot of people in our education industry, we’ve got strong interests in financial services and professional services, as well as advanced manufacturing, where we as a nation are developing critical mass in this area, so on all of these we have access now to $13.7 trillion of economic activity,” Mr Ciobo told Sky News.

Mr Ciobo attacked Labor for their scepticism about the TPP after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal.

“You said Labor raised some doubts. Well they did a lot more than that,” Mr Ciobo said.

“Labor said that they were going to walk away from this deal, they called it a “vanity project” of the Prime Minister’s.

“I mean if Labor was in government right now, consistent with them always getting the big calls on trade wrong, they would have walked away from the TPP-11, and they wouldn’t even be here to see Australia benefiting from this agreement like we will now under the Coalition.”

The Peterson Institute for International Economics has estimated that Australia’s national income in 2030 would be $US12bn better off than if the TPP didn’t exist.

Mr Ciobo was hesitant for forecast a benefit to GDP from the deal, saying modelling around trade agreements was inherently inaccurate.

“It doesn’t take into account second round effects, it doesn’t take into account what you would economically call the head-turning impact of these events as you see significant growth,” he said.

“I mean look at, for example, ChAFTA, the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. We’ve seen tremendous growth in a whole range of industries, including our wine exports that’s powering jobs in Australia, powering economic growth, and that wasn’t able to be accommodated in modelling that’s done ahead of time, so we will see as we have with every trade agreement as a nation that we’ve done, strong economic activity and job creation off the back of it.”

Mr Ciobo dismissed concerns about a lack of transparency around the deal, saying the text of the agreement had been available online “for some time”.

“We’ve also got the side letters that have been published, but I constantly see from certain elements of civil society, from some non-government organisations who claim that these things are all done in secret in some way,” he said.

“That could not be further from the truth. The fact is that these deals are negotiated with regular and constant contact with peak stakeholder groups.

“That’s how it helps to inform our negotiating position, and that’s part of what lay behind us being able to do a good deal that’s good for Australia, but it will also now that it’s been signed off, be referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.

“They’ll undertake a full public inquiry into the process. People will be able to make submissions, there’ll be hearings, and then ultimately the parliament will be able to look at any relevant legislation.”

Mr Ciobo accused those with concerns about the deal of having an “anti-trade agenda”.

“They will invent information to suit their purposes that simply isn’t supported by facts,” he said.

“As a government we are absolutely focused on creating trade opportunities for Australia, opening up export markets, because we know if we open up export markets it helps to drive economic growth and it helps to create jobs.

“This TPP-11 agreement is an important agreement. It’s opening up $13.7 billion of economic activity to Australian businesses to be able to export their goods, their services, to drive investment into these markets, and this is going to be good for Australia.”

TPP could not come at a more important time: Export Council

Export Council of Australia head of policy Heath Baker said the TPP-11 agreement could not have come at a more important time, as US President Donald Trump advances a protectionist agenda with his tariffs on steel and aluminium.

“It shows that despite the protectionism coming out of the US, there is still momentum to increasing shared prosperity through freer trade,” Mr Baker said.

Mr Baker said the deal would give Australia preferential tariff and services access to Mexico and Canada, as well as better tariffs to current FTA partners for some products, and new access for some services.

“The greatest benefit of the TPP-11 is the way it lowers the cost of doing business between markets,” he said.

“For example, the TPP-11 makes it easier for businesses that rely on cross-border data flows — which is most businesses — because it means they now can store data in one country.

“For businesses exporting goods to more than one of these markets, it simplifies things by setting one set of rules for trading across them.”

Mr Baker said there were also indirect benefits.

“People don’t realise that additional benefits flow from a lower tariff,” he said.

“When you can sell at a lower price, you can sell more. This means you can negotiate lower rates in your supply and logistics chain. This can add up to more sales, meaning more jobs.”

Mr Baker said the benefits were not only economic.

“The reason that Barack Obama pushed the TPP was to establish the next generation of trade rules,” he said.

“Even without the US, the TPP-11 still does this. In some ways it’s a better agreement without the US, because the TPP-11 doesn’t include the US’s offensive interests around intellectual property.

“That makes the TPP-11 a lower-cost agreement for other countries to join, meaning more of them are likely to join in the future.”

Mr Baker said there was no reason to be critical of the growing number of free trade agreements.

“I’ve never heard a business complain about too much market access,” he said.

“While there’s definitely scope to reduce complexity by making the rules of FTAs easier to comply with, you shouldn’t use that to criticise the TPP-11.

“By bringing multiple countries under one FTA, it simplifies things for businesses.

“If it’s too much of an administrative burden to switch between using several different FTAs, the TPP-11 means businesses can choose to just use, high-quality agreement.”

Source: The Australian

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