SHADOW Trade Minister Jason Clare says the federal Opposition will judge the “merits” of the newly reformed Trans Pacific Partnership, minus the US, once they’ve seen the actual details.
Mr Clare spoke out as Australia and the other 10 TPP countries indicated this week that they would now move to sign the newly formed Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans- Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which must then be ratified by the specific parliaments, of the participants.
Mr Clare said the federal opposition believed the TPP that was signed in NZ two years ago which originally involved the US, was now “dead and we were right”.
But he said the new arrangement - which has been broadly welcomed by Australian farmers to help liberalise new export markets - will need to be properly scrutinised before it gains Labor’s backing.
“Donald Trump as soon as he became President of the US pulled out of it,” Mr Clare said of the TPP on Sky News.
“We also said that if a different agreement can be struck without the US then we were ready to look at it and judge it on its merits.
“(Opposition leader) Bill Shorten said that, I said that, a number of times.
“The government has now signed Australia up, or they will sign Australia up to an agreement that involves the other countries, not the US, and we will look at it on its merits when it comes before us.
“The chances of Donald Trump signing up to this (in future) I think are zero but we’ve said if you can sign Australia up to another agreement without America then we’ll look at it.”
Mr Clare said the CPTPP was a “very different agreement” without the US but the original deal involved around 40 per cent of the global economy and was now only about 13pc.
“The original agreement had modest economic benefits for Australia and certainly strategic benefits,” he said.
“I’ve always said this is an agreement that had merit because what it did was create rules of the road for the region - a trade agreement for the Asia Pacific - without America that means that its economic impact might be less.
“I would like to see a trade agreement, ultimately where we have got America, where we’ve got China, where we’ve got India, all the countries of the Asia Pacific together.
“It will help create peace and stability and economic growth in our region.”
Mr Clare said Labor wanted to know what Australia had signed up for and stressed the government’s negotiations on trade deals needed to be more transparent.
“We can provide more information to the parliament, more information to industry,” he said.
“I’ll support good high quality trade deals that are going to be good for Australia, that are going to create Aussie jobs.
“We’ve just got a process that we have got to go though.
“The legislation that will go before parliament won’t be the whole trade agreement.
“It’ll be bits and pieces of it, probably to do with tariffs and customs duties.”
Greens trade and finance spokesperson Senator Sarah-Hanson Young also issued caution on the new version of the old TPP.
“The government is defending this new version of the TPP by pointing to the economic modelling of the old version,” she said.
“They’re expecting us to believe this new deal’s costs and benefits are identical, even though the players have changed and the rules have changed.
“The original deal gave multinationals the power to override the will of the Australian people by allowing corporations to sue governments, even when a government is acting in the interest of the community.
“If this zombie TPP is anything like what was originally proposed, it should have been left dead, buried and cremated - it’s all devil, no detail.”
But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said the text of the agreement was now undergoing a legal review and translation and would be made public on a date to be agreed by all parties.
Mr Turnbull said it was a “landmark deal” for trade in the region and Australian businesses and farmers would now have more opportunities to export their food, fibre and services to more customers, more easily.
The 11 countries - Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam - reached agreement on the final CPTPP at an officials-level meeting in Tokyo, Japan which is now expected to be signed in March in Chile.
“This is a multi-billion-dollar win for Australian jobs. Australian workers, businesses, farmers and consumers will benefit,” Mr Turnbull said.
“The TPP will eliminate more than 98pc of tariffs in a trade zone with a combined GDP of $13.7 trillion.
“The agreement will deliver 18 new free trade agreements between the TPP parties.
“For Australia that means new trade agreements with Canada and Mexico and greater market access to Japan, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.
“In 2016-17, nearly one quarter of Australia’s total exports, worth nearly $88 billion, went to TPP countries.
“This will continue to grow thanks to the significant increase in market access the TPP gives Australian exporters.”
Mr Clare said commissioning economic modelling on trade agreements was “common sense”.
“Labor will do it in government and so should Turnbull,” he said.