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Thursday, 18 June 2009
Page: 3778

Senator Bob Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice, on 12 May 2009:

(1)   Has a date been set for the start of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, following the deferred March 2009 start.

(2)   Has the United States Congress approved a commencement of negotiations on the agreement; if so, when does the Minister expect the negotiations to start.

(3)   Does the suspension of Fiji from the Pacific Islands Forum mean it will not be represented at the forum’s Trade Ministers’ Meeting or Leader’s meeting in 2009.

(4)   Will Fiji be part of any decision to initiate a process towards negotiating a free trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island countries, as per the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations.

(5)   Will the Government table its priorities, objectives and trade impact assessments of a possible Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement before it begins any negotiations, as promised before the 2007 federal election.

Senator Carr (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —The Minister for Trade has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   No.

(2)   The decision as to whether to participate in negotiations towards a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is one for the US Administration, in consultation with the US Congress. The Obama Administration has not yet agreed to proceed with TPP negotiations, however domestic processes to this end are ongoing.

(3)   Consistent with the decision taken by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in January this year, Fiji’s Interim Government is suspended from all meetings of the Pacific Islands Forum and from regional cooperation initiatives. While the Interim Government is suspended from the Forum, it will not participate in Forum Trade Ministers’ and Forum Leaders’ meetings.

(4)   While Fiji’s Interim Government is suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum, it will not participate in Forum Trade Ministers’ and Forum Leaders’ meetings. Therefore, while suspended, the Interim Government will not participate in Forum decision making by Trade Ministers and Leaders on the commencement of negotiations for a comprehensive free trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand and other Forum island countries (commonly known as PACER Plus).

(5)   On 26 November 2008 I (Mr Crean) tabled a document in both houses of Parliament conveying the assessments that emerged in wide-ranging public consultations on the costs and benefits of participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), including the expected economic, regional, social, cultural, regulatory and environmental impacts of a TPP. The document also addressed priorities and objectives for the negotiations. The Government will continue to consult fully on the terms of its participation and to convey feedback on the course of negotiations.