DONALD Trump can’t just “waltz back in” on the Trans Pacific Partnership and expect to receive “windfalls”, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) says.
Australia’s agriculture sector woke to the shock breaking news today that Mr Trump had signalled the US’s intention to try to explore avenues to re-join the TPP.
The erratic US President signalled during the 2016 Presidential election campaign that he would adopt a more protectionist stance on free trade deals like the TPP or North American Free Trade Agreement that he felt failed to advantage America.
He boasted exiting the TPP which was one of his first moves following inauguration in early 2017, while in more recent times his anti-free trade rhetoric has been backed up by action, igniting a tit-for-tat tariff war against China that has alarmed US farmers at a time when they’ve warned farm incomes are struggling.
NFF CEO Tony Mahar said a new style of TPP agreement had been reached – minus the US – which was one his national peak farm lobby group and the Australian agriculture sector had been a strong supporter of.
Mr Mahar said Australian farmers wanted to retain their competitive advantage which current existed in markets like Japan on products like major exports like beef, grain and dairy.
He said the US walked away from the TPP deal and welcomed their interest in seeking to re-join, particularly in light of a potentially damaging tariff war which has been developing lately with China.
But he warned their passage back into the Pacific Rim trade deal with 11 other countries would not be automatic.
“There should not be an expectation that the US or any other country can waltz back in and automatically receive windfalls or immediate advantage,” he said.
“This is an important trade agreement for Australian farmers.
“The expectation is we need it ratified and gain entry into force as soon as we can so farmers can take full advantage of the reduced tariffs and improved market access conditions.
“Should the US formally seek to join the TPP they should have to renegotiate their entry and access and it should not come at a significant disadvantage to Australian farmers.
“There must be bipartisan support for this agreement and trade more generally.”
Mecardo market analyst Andrew Whitelaw said it was “an interesting move” from a President who was “vehemently opposed” to the TPP throughout his election campaign and during his time in the oval office.
Mr Whitelaw said today’s announcement was a sign of Mr Trump having to come to the table to produce some solid trade partnerships.
He said the US would struggle if it had trade barriers with some of its trading partners.
“This is possibly a first sign of him becoming more agreeable to traditional diplomacy,” he said.
“The tariff scuffle with China has caused consternation with senators in the agricultural belt, where Trump garners a huge amount of support.
“The entry of Trump into the TPP is a way for the US to maintain preferential deals with a number of major trading partners in order to support farming communities.”
But Mr Whitelaw said given the 11 remaining countries had signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for TPP it would be hard for the US to “just insert themselves into the agreement”.
“This will require ratification by the TPP members and the US administration,” he said.
“The question will be - after Trumpeting his opposition to the TPP - will (President Trump) be welcomed back into the fold with open arms?
“If the US is welcomed back to the negotiation table, how many changes will the US seek to make?”
Asked what farm commodities may be at risk if the US re-joined the TPP, Mr Mahar said that was yet to be determined.
“At the moment we have a tangible competitive advantage in the beef, grains and dairy sectors in the Japan market for example so it really depends on what might be negotiated should the US formally decide they want in on the agreement,” he said.
“Those (commodities) potentially could be the most impacted - others possibly include sugar, horticulture and rice.”
Federal Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has said the re-signed TPP gives Australian been a “substantial advantage” over major export rivals like the US into key export markets.
After the new TPP deal was revealed earlier this year, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the historic 11-nation agreement would lock in greater trade access for Australian farmers to markets worth almost $14 trillion combined.
“The proposed abolition of Japan’s tariffs on our cheeses, wine, sheep meat, horticulture, cotton, wool, and seafood is all great news for our farmers,” he said.
- Does this article interest you? Scroll down to the comments section and start the conversation. You only need to sign up once and create a profile in the Disqus comment management system for permanent access to all discussions.