Pacific trade pact looms after WTO deal

09 Dec, 2013 04:14 AM
Trade Minister Andrew Robb.
The WTO and TPP are ... building blocks in developing a liberalised global trading system
Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

THE long-awaited achievement of the World Trade Organisation's first global trade deal will not influence current negotiations for a US-led trade pact with Pacific nations, according to Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

The $28 trillion Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), built up as an alternative to the conflict-laden WTO negotiations, aims to go further than the WTO deal in breaking down trade barriers and would be second only to it in size if sealed.

On Saturday Mr Robb travelled from Bali, where the 159 members of the WTO hailed a package of trade liberalisation measures 12 years in the making, to Singapore to participate in four days of negotiations for the TPP.

"The WTO and TPP are complementary units, building blocks if you like, in developing a liberalised global trading system and the WTO outcome does not diminish the importance of advancing TPP," Mr Robb said.

The United States, which joined negotiations for the TPP in 2008 after becoming frustrated by three failed WTO rounds, has set a deadline to conclude the TPP by the end of this year. Other negotiating members include Canada, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Chile, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand and Japan, representing in total 40 per cent of the world's gross domestic product.

Given the complexity of negotiations and a number of sticking points over reciprocal market access and intellectual property issues, participants privately believe this is a deadline that will not be met.

But Mr Robb said he was confident such issues could be worked through.

"It's getting to the real business end and for us market access remains a key ­consideration. We are willing to be ­ambitious, but there must be reciprocation in terms of market access offers put on the table," Mr Robb said.

"This can be a 21st-century trade agreement but there remains a real oppor­tunity to also address what are in effect 19th-century issues around the opening of markets."

The coalition is hoping to secure better market access for Australian agricultural exports including grains, beef and sugar from the deal, which were excluded from the free-trade deal struck with the US under the Bush administration.

Local business groups and the Labor party welcomed the announcement of the historic WTO deal, which has at its heart an agreement on "trade facilitation" designed to increase transparency and harmonisation of customs arrangements between member nations.

"As noted by the WTO director general Roberto Azevêdo in his closing remarks, the agreement reached in Bali is a beginning, not an end," opposition spokeswoman on Trade Penny Wong said.

"Labor hopes Mr Azevêdo is right when he says the outcome has 'bolstered the cause of multilateralism itself' and will be a catalyst for agreement on the key issues that have hindered progress in the Doha round to date."

Chief executive of the Business Council of Australia Jennifer Westacott said the WTO's so-called Bali package was an "important development for global trade".

"While the measures to simplify ­customs procedures and streamline global trade are relatively modest, as [it is] the first time WTO members have reached consensus on trade liberalisation action since the launch of the Doha round of negotiations, this agreement demonstrates that there is life still left in the WTO," Ms Westacott said.

"Hopefully this agreement will ­provide momentum for the WTO to tackle the trade-distorting policies ­affecting Australian farmers and other parts of our economy."

The TPP negotiations have attracted large protests from civil society groups concerned the US-led push to include in the deal clauses on intellectual property rights and the ability for companies to sue governments – known as Investor State Dispute Settlements – could impinge on the sovereignty of other nations.

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9/12/2013 6:11:55 AM

We can only hope that once the deal is signed off that once again The U.S. consider it a no brainer/ This is the same mob that got us screwed before.
9/12/2013 9:07:10 AM

Free? The US doesn't even the meaning of the word. All they care about is what is good for them. They have a corrupt and expensive farm subsidy scheme. First they screw the taxpayer to fund their farm subsidies, then thay have the consumers in the US pay higher prices for products. Sugar perfect example! US sugar farmers get protection and US consumers pay through the nose. Australian farmers have no goverenment support yet can deliver sugar into the US at much less value, and still make a cent or two.If US our friend, hate to think what our enemies are doing to us!
9/12/2013 10:41:50 AM

We still have seen no details in the media about the highly rated FTA with South Korea. When will tariffs in Korea against Aust exports start falling? By how much? Is it just like the old Labor Party tricks to announce something in the never-never that never-never gets done? Give us the detail of tariff cuts now or get rubbished Mr Robb.
11/12/2013 12:03:11 AM

Thanks Farm Weekly for airing this secret deal that will have far-reaching controls on our lives. The Agricultural chapter is being led by ex-Monsanto lobbyist Islam Siddique, and from the leaked details we have learnt that GM labelling will be illegal, as will any opposition to GM crops and foods. All will be seen as "anti-free trade practices" whether by individuals, states or country. Signing up to this agreement will lock in the Investor State Dispute Settlement where countries will be sued by industries for loss of potential, not actual, profits. There will be no right to appeal. Insane!


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