The US-Government-led push towards adopting the Trans-Pacific Partnership has resulted in a stunning victory for President Obama. This week, twelve nations signed on to the trade deal set to cover more than 40 per cent of the total global business. Locally, politicians have insisted that the new deal will result in greater jobs growth and a booming economy. But are those rosy claims realistic?

In the US city of Atlanta, days of meetings and high-level talks resulted in the TPP being adopted around the world. Locally, the Australian Government insists that Australia struck a good deal with the many other member states. In short, the Government says 98 per cent of all tariffs on items such as food, manufactured goods, energy and resources have been abolished.

Despite the fact the deal has been notionally agreed upon, the TPP must still be ratified and legislated by respective parliaments. In the US and Canada, this process is anything but settled; similarly, Australia’s legislative response to the TPP has been cautious and muted. Federal Labor are seeking more details on any prospective deal, as specifics regarding the trade partnership have yet to be made clear to them. In the interim, the government has begun to spruik the TPP as an ‘economy changing’ development.

“These deals are win-win,” PM Malcolm Turnbull told 3AW. “This deal has no impact on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. We believe we’ve got the balance right,” Mr. Turnbull added, temporarily soothing some concerns that the current rule of five years worth of data protection for biologic medicines would be abolished. “There are winners and losers but overwhelmingly this will drive enormous job growth and create all sorts of wonderful opportunities,” Trade Minister Andrew Robb added.

In response, opposition forces have stated they are optimistic – if a little cautious – about the long-term economic prospects of the TPP.  “We said a red line for us was ensuring that there would be no impact on the accessibility and affordability of medicines in this country,” Labor’s trade spokeswoman Penny Wong told the ABC. “I understand that Mr Robb has said that he’s delivered on that. We’ll look forward to seeing the detail of that agreement.”

Similarly, the Greens have lambasted the government for accepting the controversial investor-state dispute settlement provisions. “They haven’t stopped corporations taking strategic litigation through these shady tribunals in other parts of the world, and we don’t expect they will work here,” Greens representative Peter Whish-Wilson told the media.

Meanwhile, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon labelled the deal “Trans-Pacific dud”, slamming the government for striking a thoroughly undemocratic deal. “It seems the trade imbalance — that is the amount of exports that go to the other country we’ve signed up with compared to their imports — they’ve done much better,” Mr. Xenophon said. “It is a dud deal because there’s a lack of transparency and scrutiny over the whole process; the talks have been negotiated in secret.”

With billions of dollars worth of revenue and business on the table, the Australian Government is hoping that the TPP (along with the newly negotiated China-Australia Free Trade Agreement) will kick-start the economy and drive investment in high-employment sectors such as agri-business and finance. For the sake of all Australians, we hope their initial assessments are correct.


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