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Wednesday, 18 June 2014
Page: 6393


Mr ROBB (GoldsteinMinister for Trade and Investment) (09:01): by leave—It is with pleasure that I table the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade Facilitation and accompanying national interest analysis for parliament's consideration. The agreement on trade facilitation was concluded by the 159 members of the WTO at the Ninth Ministerial Conference on 7 December 2013 in Bali. As with all proposed treaties, the parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties will now review the agreement and, in due course, provide its report.

This agreement is designed to deliver practical measures to strengthen global trade and economic growth. At its heart, this agreement is about cutting red tape. It is about removing the regulatory and procedural burdens that our traders face when conducting international trade.

As the agreement targets regulatory barriers and border bottlenecks often overlooked in international trade negotiations, the benefits to Australia will be significant. With its focus on harmonising and streamlining global customs procedures the agreement will markedly reduce the length of time and the number of documents it takes Australian exporters to get their goods across borders. By requiring more transparent and predictable regulations, the agreement will also assist Australian businesses, large and small, in making international business decisions.

For Australian exporters, implementation of the agreement will mean marked improvements in the manner in which their goods are treated in offshore markets. In fact it has been estimated that full implementation of the agreement could reduce the costs of trading across borders by up to 10 per cent for Australian traders. For example, provisions on advance rulings will mean that Australian traders will be able to obtain precise and binding rulings on the tariff classification their good will receive upon arrival at a foreign border. This will help Australia's smaller exporters in particular, who will know how their goods will be treated by an overseas customs authority before sending them off on the long voyage from Australia.

The agreement also mandates the quick release of perishable goods, which will reduce the number of Australian agricultural exports left to rot while waiting for clearance in foreign ports. Provisions allowing for the submission of import documentation prior to the physical arrival of goods, and for the clearance of goods prior to the final determination of duties and charges, will speed up the process of getting Australian goods to market. This will reduce business costs for Australian exporters and make their goods more affordable to overseas consumers.

Small Australian exporters will also benefit from new requirements to publish relevant procedures and forms for importing goods on the internet. This simple but highly valuable commitment from WTO members will make it much easier for our SMEs to navigate customs procedures and launch themselves into new export markets.

The agreement complements our efforts in development assistance, and will deliver substantial benefits to our developing country partners. The full implementation of the agreement by developing countries will boost their economic growth and create millions of jobs. Globally, the agreement will provide a major boost for jobs and growth, and it has been estimated that this agreement could add up to US$1 trillion to the world economy and create 21 million jobs. We stand ready to assist developing countries to implement the agreement and to undertake the necessary reforms to facilitate trade. We are already providing assistance of this nature, including to our Pacific Island neighbours. More recently, and in partnership with the World Bank, we have committed to support global efforts to help developing country partners undertake trade facilitation reform.

As the first major agreement concluded since the establishment of the WTO in 1995, the Agreement on Trade Facilitation is a significant milestone. It shows that the multilateral trading system is continuing to deliver outcomes with significant benefits and global reach. Australia remains committed to advancing WTO negotiations to bring the Doha Round to a close. We are currently working with WTO Director-General Azevedo and other members to develop a productive and forward looking post-Bali work plan, which will deliver economic growth and jobs for Australia.

In just over a month I will chair the second G20 trade ministers meeting. One of the aims of the meeting will be for G20 member countries to identify actions to improve the efficiency of trade flows within global value chains—that array of activities involved in creating, producing and delivering a product that stretch across countries and regions. Income from global value chain trade flows doubled between 1995 and 2009. I will be strongly encouraging my G20 colleagues to agree to implementation of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation quickly as an effective action towards harnessing the power of the global economy, boosting trade and creating jobs.

This government is committed to a trade agenda that increases the prosperity of Australians. Negotiating outcomes like the Agreement on Trade Facilitation will substantially reduce trade barriers and minimise red tape, making a significant contribution to Australia's economic future. Australia's acceptance of this agreement will further build on the government's recent accomplishments in concluding free trade agreements with Korea and Japan. We expect that upon the agreement's entry into force, we will see substantial benefits beginning to flow for Australian exporters from reduced red-tape at the borders of our key trading partners.

This is an agreement that took a long time to negotiate, and I commend the achievement of officials from various agencies led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I commend this agreement to parliament, and hereby table the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation with its national interest analysis.

I ask leave of the House to move a motion to enable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to speak for six minutes.

Leave granted.

Mr ROBB: I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Deputy Leader of the Opposition speaking in reply to the ministerial statement for a period not exceeding six minutes.

Question agreed to.