US withdraws from TPP but Turnbull may try to ratify dead agreement

21 January 2017: Shortly after President Donald Trump’s inauguration today the new administration released a statement confirming the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The text of the agreement makes it clear the current deal cannot come into force without the US as the largest economy. Even in the unlikely event that there are moves to proceed without the US, this would require a different text to be renegotiated and signed, and the whole parliamentary process would have to start again.

Despite this, the Government may try to ratify the dead TPP in Australia. After recent talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, PM Turnbull confirmed he would push for a vote in Parliament, with the aim to put pressure on the US to implement the agreement despite Trump’s opposition.

LaborThe Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team  have all declared they won’t support the dead agreement. Together, they have a majority in the Senate and would be able to block the ratification of the agreement if they vote against the implementing legislation. They also have a majority on the Senate committee inquiring into the TPP which is due to report on February 7. This report is expected to recommend against ratifying an agreement that will not proceed.

However, despite Labor leader Bill Shorten calling the Coalition’s campaign for the dead TPP "a waste of time,” Labor has not yet decided how it will vote on the TPP’s implementing legislation.  When questioned by the ABC, Shadow Trade Minister Jason Clare said that the Shadow Cabinet would make that decision if and when the Government introduced the legislation into Parliament.

AFTINET and the ACTU both released statements condemning the TPP for human rights, labour rights and environmental reasons, and calling on Labor to reject the implementing legislation. This criticism is not against trade itself but against unfair trade deals, and these values are the opposite of those expressed by Trump and other far right groups. 

Why the Senate must block the dead TPP

Not only would it be futile to ratify an agreement that would never come into effect but it would also be damaging for future trade debate in Australia.

The TPP had many fundamental flaws which would have been damaging for our democracy, public health, workers’ rights and the environment. It would have brought few economic benefits and resulted in 39,000 net job losses.

Although the TPP is dead for now and won’t come into effect even if Australia does ratify it, it would be a bad precedent if a majority in the Senate endorsed a failed and unfair agreement.

Voting no would send a strong message that better quality trade deals are needed in the future – trade deals which support rather than undermine labour rights, access to medicines, and democratic rights to regulate in the public interest.

In particular, it would be an important step towards ensuring that the TPP is not used as a model for other trade agreements such as the RCEP, which could be finalised by the end of this year. 

Take Action: Ask Labor to reject the TPP by sending a message to trade spokesperson Jason Clare.