Australia hails TPP as 'gigantic foundation stone'

Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb speaking as the twelve Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member countries participate in the closing press conference in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Oct 5, 2015.
Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb speaking as the twelve Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member countries participate in the closing press conference in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Oct 5, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia on Tuesday (Oct 6)hailed a deal to create the world's largest free trade area as a huge opportunity for businesses, farmers, and manufacturers to cash in on the burgeoning Asia-Pacific region.

"Any deal like this is of enormous benefit to us," said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in welcoming the agreement reached in Atlanta on Monday after five years of negotiation.

"It is a gigantic foundation stone for our future prosperity." Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement contained "pages and pages of benefits" and would make Australia's mining-driven economy more competitive, create jobs and boost living standards.

"The historic TPP will deliver enormous benefits to Australia, including unprecedented new opportunities in the rapidly growing-Asia Pacific region, with its rising middle class, for our businesses, farmers, manufacturers and service providers," he said.

"Combined with our landmark trade deals with Korea, Japan and China, the TPP forms part of the government's microeconomic reform strategy to support the diversification of our economy in this critical post-mining boom phase."

As well as boosting trade with key partner the United States, the pact will open up new markets for Australia in Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile and Canada.

Under the deal, 98 per cent of tariffs will be eliminated on everything from beef, dairy, wine, sugar, rice, horticulture and seafood, through to manufactured products, resources and energy.

Last year, about a third of Australian exports - worth A$109 billion (S$109.76 billion) - went to TPP countries, which also include Brunei, Japan, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, and Singapore.

Labor opposition trade spokeswoman Penny Wong said she was examining the details closely, and it was up to Mr Robb to demonstrate that Australians would not be disadvantaged in any way.

"Mr Robb says he's put in place a range of carve-outs which protect Australia's health and environmental regulations, and also excluded tobacco companies, so we look forward to seeing how robust those protections are," she said.

While the National Farmers Federation welcomed the deal as more money in its members' pockets, cane-growers were unhappy they only got agreement to send an extra 65,000 tonnes of sugar to the US.

"That's not to be sneezed at, but I would be less than truthful in saying we are overall disappointed in the outcome," chairman Paul Schembri said.

The accord must still must be signed and ratified by the respective countries, including Australia.