Caution urged on trade deal
■ The WA Government has joined their Federal counterparts in welcoming the conclusion of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But the Opposition and WA stakeholders have urged caution, noting that details about the benefits of the agreement that would contribute to an informed decision were scarce.
Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston said the new agreement would eliminate more than 98 per cent of tariffs in the TPP region, removing import taxes on about $9 billion of Australian trade.
“With about 33 per cent, or $15 billion, of Australia’s agricultural exports going to TPP countries in 2014, this regional trade agreement could open up new export opportunities for Western Australian farmers,” he said.
“Apart from reducing tariffs in many of our existing markets, this may open a few more doors in the highly competitive global agrifood market — particularly in the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific region, with its rising middle class.
“Export markets are vital for our agriculture and food sector, and the State Government is committed to providing market and trade development support for Western Australian agribusiness.”
Federal MP Alannah MacTiernan said the benefit of deals similar to the TPP had been overstated in the past.
“Certainly there has been a lot of hype about it but there is some concern around the investor state dispute resolution which could reduce our sovereignty in important areas,” she said.
“I just think in this day and age we need to have more transparency about the whole process and about what we’re putting on the table.
“There’s not the community engagement people expect in the 21st century.”
Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook said the TPP did not seem to offer a lot to the people he represented.
“Free trade is always a great thing and we encourage it by all means but I think the China FTA will be far more important, that agreement will deliver far more to producers than the deal that has just been negotiated,” he said.
“I think there is a real concern in the high cost of labour in Australia.
“When I said in my speech earlier that American workers are working for $15 per hour it’s not because they’re being driven into poverty, it’s because the cost of living is so much lower in the US.”
Mr Seabrook said Australia would struggle to compete with the TPP trading partners who have lower cost economies.