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Trans-Pacific Partnership or Peru poker tournament?

3 June 2013

The Australian agriculture sector reinforced the need for a trade liberalising Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement during the 17th and latest round of talks in Lima, Peru.

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) policy general manager, Tony Mahar, said while support for the TPP remains high, there are concerns that the progress and the willingness to commit to solutions may be waning and this in turn could compromise an ambitious outcome.

“The TPP has the potential to be a key trade agreement involving important markets for Australia such as Japan, Canada and Mexico,” Mr Mahar said.

“The majority of country representatives engaged within the discussions have indicated that they still have some way to go before the discussions reach a resolution - but at the moment it appears more like a poker game with not enough cards on the table,” Mr Mahar said.

The TPP builds on the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (P4) between Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, which entered into force in 2006. The TPP includes the P4 Parties as well as Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the USA and Vietnam.

An Australian delegation, including representatives from the red meat, pork and sugar industries attended the talks in Peru last month.

“The NFF strongly supports the Australian Government approach for a TPP outcome that eliminates, or at least substantially reduces, barriers to trade and investment for not only agriculture but more broadly for Australia. Our trade officials continue to advocate a trade liberalising outcome but it’s tough going,” Mr Mahar said.

The NFF view is that the TPP potentially provides for more than a traditional trade agreement in that it will pave the way for new opportunities for trade and investment and drive future trade agreements globally.

“It is time to see participating governments step up the progress and put offers on the table. And, it is critical that those offers include agriculture without any exclusions,” Mr Mahar concluded.

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