Trade Minister Andrew Robb has formally signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the biggest trade agreement in 20 years, despite the concerns of some community groups.
He says he is now setting his sights on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – RCEP – yet another huge trade agreement in the Asia Pacific Region which he hopes will conclude by the end of the year.
The Trade Minister says once the RCEP is signed, it will combine with the TPP to create a vast trade agreement architecture like no other in the world, superseding the “noodle bowl” of bilateral trade agreements in the region and removing billions of dollars worth of red tape.
Minister of Trade and Investment Andrew Robb signs the Trans Pacific Partnership on Thursday.
Minister of Trade and Investment Andrew Robb signs the Trans Pacific Partnership on Thursday. Photo: Fiona Goodall
He will formally present the TPP to Parliament on Tuesday next week, and that will trigger the joint-standing committee on treaties to hold public hearings on the TPP in February.
“The TPP is truly transformative,” Mr Robb told Fairfax Media from New Zealand, where 12 delegates attended the signing ceremony.
“I’d say to the Parliament, and to those groups protesting who wrote the letter yesterday … study the 16,000 pages of the TPP text, you will see we’ve made every possible effort to recognise the concerns people have had and to ensure we have addressed them.
Mr Robb with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key after signing the Trans Pacific Partnership on Thursday.
Mr Robb with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key after signing the Trans Pacific Partnership on Thursday. Photo: Fiona Goodall
“Any fair assessment of the final document will demonstrate that we have made a huge effort to deal effectively with, and to take on board, the principal concerns that have been raised with us for several years.
“We should be in a strong position to see this get the broad community support necessary to pass it.”
The TPP signing comes a day after 59 community organisations signed a letter calling for an independent assessment of the trade deal before Parliament is asked to vote on ratifying the agreement.
Groups such as World Vision, the Public Health Association, Greenpeace, the ACTU, Catholic Religious Australia and the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network believe the agreement poses “grave risks to the public interest” because it has not been independently assessed.
They want an organisation like the Productivity Commission to evaluate its economic costs and benefits before it is ratified by Parliament.
Mr Robb told Fairfax Media that some of the organisations who signed the letter will never be satisfied with any answer he gives them, but others have been more serious and Australia’s trade officials have done their best to meet their concerns.
He says the call to have the Productivity Commission assess the TPP before it’s ratified is just a political tactic to delay it coming into force.
“[Some of those groups] have raised issues with us, legitimately, for nearly seven years. I’ve never had more correspondence than I have had over the TPP in my 12 years in Parliament,” he said.
“But there was a consistent number of issues that were raised with me, particularly the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and the biologics issue, and any fair reading of the chapters in the agreement that deal with them will suggest that we have gone most of the way in satisfying those concerns.”
Mr Robb says now that the TPP has been signed, every country involved in the deal has two years to ratify it.
The TPP is the biggest global trade deal in 20 years, involving 12 countries in the Pacific region, which collectively represent over 40 per cent of world GDP.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/andrew-robb-signs-transpacific-partnership-sets-sights-on-another-huge-trade-deal-20160204-gmly35.html#ixzz3zwcYmdWa
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