TPP 11 passes Australian Parliament

The Australian Senate has passed the TPP 11 Pacific trade deal after receiving bipartisan support.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP 11) passed Parliament on Wednesday, making Australia the fourth signatory nation to ratify the Pacific rim trade deal.

The agreement is set to enter into force 60 days after six countries have ratified it, with Singapore, Japan, and Mexico also having passed the law.

"This landmark agreement is one of the most comprehensive trade deals ever concluded, and strips 98 percent of tariffs for 11 countries with a combined GDP of more than $13.8 trillion and close to 500 million consumers," Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham said in a joint statement.

"Independent modelling shows Australia is forecast to see AU$15.6 billion in net annual benefits to national income by 2030 from the TPP 11.

"Our government will continue to pursue a trade agenda that opens new markets for Australian businesses and creates certainty for exporters. It is a key plank of our government's plan to further strengthen our economy."

Speaking to media at a doorstop in Canberra on Wednesday, Morrison paid tribute to former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and former Trade Minister Steve Ciobo for pushing the TPP trade deal despite the withdrawal of the United States at the beginning of 2017.

"When others said this couldn't be done, our government continued on and made sure we could connect Australia to half a billion consumers around the world and some almost $14 trillion worth of economies that are there that we can now access," Morrison said.

"I can't underscore enough how this agreement demonstrates our government's commitment to expanding our trade markets. It's pretty easy to walk away from these sorts of things, and we saw the opposition um and ah over the China free trade agreement, we saw them actually parody this agreement, parody what we've been able to achieve.

"Australia is an open, trading nation."

In response to questions about whether free trade agreements would erode local jobs, the prime minister said the government is opening up more markets for Australian companies to enter.

"When you invest in these agreements, when you invest in lower taxes, when you invest in infrastructure, when you invest in technology and in science, which is what our government has been doing, that gives you the edge that makes sure that Australian companies continue to have the edge," Morrison added.

However, data released yesterday by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science showed investment by Canberra in science, and research and development is now at its lowest level since the 2010-11 financial year.

"These new figures come on top of last year's tables which showed that in real terms science, research, and innovation funding has declined by AU$358 million since 2013," Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Senator Kim Carr said in a statement.

"The Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government talks a big game on science and research, but the facts are very different."

TPP 11 had been signed by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile in January, with the federal government saying it would take effect in Australia by the end of 2018.

TPP 11 then received bipartisan support in the Australian Senate last month following debate, though not from the Greens party.

"Labor has betrayed Australian workers, and our sovereignty, by paving the way to locking our nation to the dangerous TPP," Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said in September.

The New Zealand government in February published the content of the TPP 11 deal, with the intellectual property chapter outlining safe harbour and fair use regimes, as well as pushing civil and criminal penalties for piracy.

South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia have shown "strong interest" in joining the TPP, Turnbull said previously, as well as Colombia. The United Kingdom, which will complete Brexit next year, could also potentially join the TPP, according to Turnbull.

The original TPP was signed in February 2016 by the US, but was dumped by President Donald Trump on his first week in office in favour of bilateral trade deals that promote his "America first" protectionist policy, despite warnings that he risked "abdicating" trade leadership in the Asia-Pacific region to China.

Trump earlier this year again rejected the trade deal via a tweet.

"While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don't like the deal for the United States," Trump tweeted in April.

"Too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn't work. Bilateral deals are far more efficient, profitable and better for OUR workers. Look how bad WTO is to U.S."

While Turnbull had also previously suggested that the TPP could be opened up to China, the Chinese government expressed unwillingness to join, instead favouring the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is being negotiated between China, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand.

Back in June, Turnbull additionally announced entering negotiations for a free trade agreement with the European Union, pushing regulations and initiatives for innovation and tech startups.

"We are seeking an ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement to drive Australian exports, economic growth, and create new Australian jobs," Turnbull said at the time.

"We will look to lock in access and create new commercially meaningful opportunities for Australian services exporters, with a focus on education, financial, and professional services.

"We will also explore rules and initiatives to support the digital economy, innovation, and increase opportunities for high-technology startups."

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