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Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Page: 7442

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:36): My question is to the Cabinet Secretary, Senator Sinodinos, representing the Minister for Trade and Investment. Will the Cabinet Secretary update the Senate on the next steps in the process for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:36): I thank Senator Back for his question. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, as my colleague and friend the Minister for Finance mentioned, is the biggest trade deal for Australia for 20 years. It will benefit industries and sectors right across the Australian economy.

This process has been going now for some time. It ends a process which began late in 2008. Over this time, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has held more than 1,000 stakeholder briefings and consultation sessions across the country, including with state and territory governments as well as peak industry bodies, companies, academics, unions, consumer groups and special interest groups, among others.

With these sorts of trade agreements you do have to have a consultation process. You cannot negotiate the text in the open, particularly when you are dealing with 12 other countries.

An opposition senator interjecting

Senator SINODINOS: I am coming to that. Each of the 12 nations that have joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership must now follow their own processes for entering into treaties. For us here in Australia this will mean in the first instance that a national interest analysis must be performed. This analysis will examine the TPP in detail on how the agreement will affect Australia. From here both the text of the TPP and the accompanying national interest analysis will be tabled in parliament for 20 joint sitting day and the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties will conduct an inquiry into the TPP which will report back to the parliament in due course. Full transparency: the TPP will not be signed prior to the text being released publicly.

The TPP is a big deal for Australia. It will cover 40 per cent of global economic output. It is a deal which eliminates more than 98 per cent of tariffs among 12 member nations and removes tariffs on more than $9 billion of our exports.

Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:38): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the cabinet secretary for his response and ask: is he aware of similar procedures for passing other free trade agreements?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:38): The process for the TPP to enter into force is the same process that has been in force for 20 years. The Korea and Japan free trade agreements have been subject to the same process for treaties in Australia. Both were supported by the opposition, and we welcome that support. The process is the same as for the Chile and Malaysia free trade agreements, which occurred under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments. Free trade agreements with New Zealand, Singapore and the US, amongst others, have all gone through the same process. The TPP will follow the usual proper processes of all other FTAs to be entered into by Australia in the last two decades.

Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:39): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I ask if the cabinet secretary could tell the Senate how the Trans-Pacific Partnership will lower the costs of trade for Australian business.

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:39): The TPP will make major reductions in red tape and the administrative burdens on trade. It will ensure customs procedures among member nations are both more transparent and more efficient. Everybody knows that stock that is stuck on the docks is a day of costs, so pallets and containers will no longer attract a duty when used to move goods among member nations. By moving goods into overseas markets faster and cheaper, new opportunities will open up for Australian exporters. There will be regional rules of origin brought into force and a single set of documentary procedures for products traded under the TPP. This will make trading between the 12 member nations cheaper and encourage more common markets across the Asia-Pacific region. If the Greens want more transparency around the TPP, why don't they start with more transparency around their own conferences?