Other deals replace TPP as top Australian government priority

15 August 2016

In light of fading TPP prospects, Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo is now setting his sights on other trade deals.

He has changed his rhetoric on the TPP, telling the AFR, "We don't put all our eggs in one basket. The TPP isn't the be-all and end-all of free trade.” 
Indonesia and TiSA now top priorities

Mr Ciobo recently travelled to Indonesia for a round of bilateral trade talks and says the Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement is now the first priority of the Government’s free trade agenda. 

However, it’s clear that it is politics, not economics which is really driving the agenda. Former diplomat Alan Oxley told the AFR: "Normally it is heresy for a trade person like me to say we should do a trade agreement for political reasons but this is an exception.”
Govt focuses on Indonesia trade deal despite trade deficit jump

An FTA with Indonesia is on track to be completed within 18 months and it remains Trade Minister Steve Ciobo’s first priority, according to recent media reports.

This announcement by Minister Ciobo comes as the latest trade deficit figures were released, finding that the widening of Australia’s trade deficit continues unabated, and showing that the Government's rhetoric that trade agreements are mainly about increased exports cannot be taken at face value.
TiSA, like TPP, will expand corporate rights

Trade Minister Ciobo says that the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is another major priority and is potentially one of the “biggest and most significant” trade deals in decades.
The ALP has recognized the importance of TISA by giving Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh the responsibility for trade in services. We are seeking a meeting with him.

While AFTINET is concerned about the TiSA because of its potential to expand corporate rights for global services companies, and reduce government rights to regulate them, a recent article published from a business perspective on The Conversation argued that the deal could actually disadvantage some Australian services.

Monash Business School lecturer Giovanni Di Lieto claims that the deal would further complicate multilateral trading systems. He writes:

“This is a serious concern for the future of service-oriented economies, like Australia, considering that TiSA parties collectively account for around 70% of the global trade in services. The complexity and uncertainty created by TiSA would be an incentive for businesses to avoid navigating the existing framework, making it harder to access trading opportunities in emerging sectors.” Read more.