I would like to state that I am a supporter of measures that increase opportunities for trade and commerce between Australia and the rest of the world. In my own career prior to being a Senator I have advocated and promoted trade between Australia and Asia.
The opportunities for permanent benefit from greater trade with our Asia neighbours are clear. There are extensive economic and societal benefits of deepening trade with Asia. As examples, the 63 percent year on year increase in Australian wine exports to China in 2017 (much of that from South Australia), and the growth of international education to be our third largest export industry.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement presented an opportunity to broaden our trade opportunities with ten other Pacific Rim countries, six of which are in Asia. However there were several issues I grappled with in my consideration, including:
- Concern about the effectiveness of FTAs more broadly. There is evidence to suggest that overall trade flows between countries did not increase after signing the US-Australia FTA. There are mixed results with regard to trade surplus and deficits from other FTAs;
- The absence of detailed independent modelling on the economic benefits of the TPP for Australia was very troubling, relaying on international studies that assess the TPP in its entirety;
- The Australian Government did not request the Productivity Commission to formally examine the TPP agreement;
- I found issue with the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, which grant corporations powers to sue governments for changes of policy. I felt we should look with some scepticism upon measures that allow companies to override the democratic will of sovereign governments;
- I also had concerns around the provisions that waive market labour testing. There is a lack of independent analysis of potential impacts on the Australian labour market of the removal of labour market testing for temporary migrant workers from TPP-11 countries;
After much consideration, without the proposed amendments being passed which exempted Australia from ISDS provisions and reinstated labour market testing, I could not support the legislation as it was proposed.