Some will win, some will lose and some just don’t yet know the impact a mammoth multilateral trade deal between 12 Pacific region nations will have.
Australian business is assessing the so-far vague details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, signed overnight after five years of intense negotiations.
The federal government is promising “pages and pages” of benefits including slashed tariffs and new markets. As well as boosting trade with the US, the government says the deal will open up markets to Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile and Canada and usher in a new era of opportunity across the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region.
Service providers, miners and manufacturers will benefit from slashed tariffs while farmers will reap an extra $1 billion from cuts to export levies on beef, dairy, wine, rice, horticulture and seafood in a number of markets.
Tariffs for beef will be cut to nine per cent to Japan and, for the first time in decades, rice growers will be able to send more product there.
While market access for sugar to the US will double, the outcome is well below what cane growers had sought.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb conceded he couldn’t secure the increase he wanted, prompting lobby group Canegrowers to describe the $16 million boost as bittersweet. “That’s not to be sneezed at,” chairman Paul Schembri said as he expressed overall disappointment.
There will be no change to the five-year data protection for biologic medicines, a major sticking point that had delayed negotiations in Atlanta. That’s been cautiously welcomed by federal Labor, which wants to see the agreement’s details.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wants a guarantee the TPP won’t increase the price of medicines. “We will hold the Turnbull Liberal government to that assurance,” he said.
But innovative drug makers are disappointed, saying the five-year period lagged behind global competitors and would stifle innovation.
Medicines Australia believes Australia will miss out on jobs and tax streams from sacrificed medical breakthroughs.
Unions are wary of the deal, which was negotiated in secret. The ACTU fears there could be “many harmful” elements and believes there’s a “great probability” the agreement is not balanced or protective of Australian jobs. ”
You have to wonder, if it’s such a good deal, why are the details hidden,” ACTU president Ged Kearney said.
But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the deal as a “win-win” that was of “enormous benefit” to Australia and a “gigantic foundation stone” for the country’s future prosperity.
The Australian Greens, who have staunchly opposed the secret negotiations, are concerned the deal prioritises company profits over public interest.
Labor will examine the details closely, especially investor-state dispute resolution provisions which could open up Australia to litigation on issues such as plain cigarette packaging.
Each country will take the agreement home, with the deal to be scrutinised by a joint houses committee of the Australian parliament.
The biggest issue for Australian businesses could be getting to grips with how to exploit new arrangements that make up the world’s largest free trade agreement. International banking giant HSBC estimates that only one in five Australian companies make use of free trade agreements.