Controversial Pacific trade pact revived

Lisa Martin
(Australian Associated Press)

 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which had been on life support since America’s withdrawal, has been revived and is being trumpeted as a jobs boom for Australia.

The 11 remaining countries are expected to sign a tweaked agreement on March 8 in Chile.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Wednesday it was a “big deal” for the Australian economy.

“It will mean billions of additional exports and thousands of additional jobs,” he said in Brisbane.

Mr Turnbull flagged he would encourage US President Donald Trump to change his mind when he visits Washington DC in coming months, but acknowledged that as unlikely in the short term.

“The way the agreement is structured is so America can dock back in,” he said.

Canada threw a spanner in the works at an APEC leaders summit in Vietnam last year, derailing efforts to finalise the deal.

But Ottawa has since been coaxed back to the fold following lobbying efforts by Tokyo and Canberra.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland overnight, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the agreement the “right deal”.

It now included an improved arrangement on autos with Japan and the suspension of certain intellectual property provisions, Canada’s trade minister said in a statement.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo says the overall deal will eliminate 98 per cent of tariffs in an 11-nation marketplace worth close to $14 trillion.

“It hasn’t been easy, but we’re finally at the finish line and Aussie businesses will be the big winners,” he told AAP.

Australian exporters will benefit from new trade agreements with Canada and Mexico and greater market access to Japan, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.

There’s also a better deal for cheese and beef exports into Japan and new quotas for rice and wheat. Sugar producers will also have better access to markets in Japan, Canada and Mexico.

Treasurer Scott Morrison says Mr Ciobo and the prime minister had been like a “dog with a bone” securing the deal.

“We had Bill Shorten and the Labor party who were about as enthusiastic about trade as a wet blanket,” Mr Morrison told reporters.

But Labor trade spokesman Jason Clare says the deal is very different to the original, which included the US.

“If you take America out of that, it makes a very big difference, like taking the sun out of the solar system,” he told ABC radio.

The opposition is seeking more information on what the agreement will mean for Australia.

“It is confirmation that Australia has an important leadership role in fighting the wave of protectionism that jeopardises global growth,” Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young was sceptical.

“Hold the champagne – this zombie TPP may be new, but it’s anything but improved,” she said.

Other countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea may wish to join up once the pact is in force, Mr Turnbull said.

The TPP agreement was finalised at a meeting of trade officials in Tokyo on Tuesday.

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