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TPP takes wing despite Trump tantrum

Australia's access to 10 overseas markets looks set to improve, under a renewed TPP agreement announced last week.

Despite what seemed at times like impossible odds, the long awaited Trans-Pacific Partnership is on track to become a reality – with 11 TPP countries reaching an agreement mid last week.

The United States will not be party to the agreement, after its decision to withdraw from talks following the election of President Donald Trump.

Many feared the United States’ decision would derail the agreement. This was followed by another blow last November, when Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the surprise decision not to sign at a meeting in Vietnam.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Trade Minister Steve Ciobo at a TPP meeting in Vietnam, November 2017

The final deal, known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), saw Canada return to the fold – joining Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam to make up a new TPP trade zone with a combined GDP of $13.7 trillion.

The Australian Government says the CPTPP agreement will reduce tariffs by more than 98 percent across participating economies.

In 2016-17, nearly one quarter of Australia’s total exports, worth nearly $88 billion, went to CPTPP countries.

Highlights for Australian farmers under the CPTPP include:

  • Accelerated reduction in tariffs on beef into Japan (our largest beef export market).
  • Elimination of a range of cheese tariffs into Japan (a $100 million trade that was not covered by the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement).
  • New quotas for wheat and rice into Japan.
  • New quotas for sugar into Japan, Canada and Mexico.
  • Elimination of all tariffs on sheep meat, cotton, wool, seafood, horticulture and wine.

The National Farmers’ Federation has welcomed the deal, saying it contains several important wins for the farm sector.

“The NFF has been a staunch advocate for the TPP since its inception, and the final agreement is an important show of support for free trade by participating nations,” said NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar.

“The CPTPP is a regional free trade agreement of unprecedented scope and ambition. It has great potential to drive job-creating growth across the Australian economy.

“The CPTPP promises far greater access to some of the world’s largest and fastest growing markets – including three G20 nations,” Mr Mahar said.

Not everyone is a fan though, and already trade unions and others have begun fanning fears about issues like foreign workers.

We ask all sides of politics to review the CPTPP on its merits
Tony Mahar, Chief Executive, National Farmers' Federation

The NFF and others have been quick to point out the flaws in these arguments.

“As an exporting nation, access to new markets for our agricultural commodities and other products and services is central to Australia’s economic success. New opportunities for our farmers, manufacturers and exporters underpin job creation and economic growth right across our economy.

“It is critical that all parties and politicians stand behind Australia’s efforts to open new markets. We ask all sides of politics to review the CPTPP on its merits and resist the temptation to politicise the review and ratification process,” Mr Mahar concluded.