SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday hailed the revival of the Trans Pacific Partnership as a boon for jobs, but critics questioned how much Australia would really gain from a deal that excludes the US.
After Canada Wednesday agreed to rejoin 10 other nations in resurrecting the trade pact, Mr Turnbull termed the deal a multi-billion-dollar trade windfall for Australia.
“It is a big deal,” the prime minister told reporters. “A big trade deal at a time when many people said it couldn’t be done, after the United States pulled out, after President Trump was elected.”
“We are firmly of the view that a free and open Indo-Pacific, open markets, free trade, the rule of law, encouraging investment and trade through our region is manifestly in our national interest and in the interests of all of the countries in the region.”
In addition to Australia, the pact now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership includes Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The agreement, expected to be formally ratified in Chile in March, will incorporate all commitments from the original TPP, except for a limited number of provisions suspended temporarily and some remaining issues to be finalised.
It means new bilateral agreements for Canberra with Canada and Mexico, as well as increased access for many Australian agricultural products to member states. The deal seeks to remove 98 percent of tariffs within the trade bloc.
The TPP looked doomed last year after President Donald Trump withdrew the US, dismaying allies but fulfilling an election pledge.
Australia’s opposition Labor party said the new pact had lost its shine since the US withdrawal and the government had failed to specify how the country would benefit from it.
“This is a very different agreement because America’s not in it,” shadow minister for trade Jason Clare told Sky news.