US Absence from TPP ‘Benefits Australia’s Farmers’

‘Under the terms negotiated in the TPP11, we have favourable access to markets like Japan,’ says Australia’s Minister for Trade Steven Ciobo.

Australian farmers would “hate” to see the new Trans-Pacific Partnership renegotiated to allow the US to enter, and say America’s absence benefits local agriculture.

The comments come after Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said there would be “pros and cons” for Australia if the US joined the TPP, indicating beef farmers could be worse off if Donald Trump struck a deal to enter the trade pact.

Mr Ciobo also said Australia would not agree to any US requests to strengthen pharmaceutical patent protections — part of initial negotiations when the US was involved — which would increase medicine costs in Australia. “Australia will not ­accept a situation where we would see an impact on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or the pricing of drugs in Australia — we have been firm on that,” he said.

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said while her organisation was an advocate of free trade and wanted the US engaged in global trade, it did not want to see the TPP-11, signed this year without America, altered. “The fact the US is not at the moment in the TPP gives our farmers a distinct advantage … particularly, for example, Japan and particularly when we’re talking about beef and grain and dairy,” she told The Australian.

“The US (is) one of our biggest competitors … and under the terms negotiated in the TPP-11 we have favourable access to markets like Japan. We would hate to see anything renegotiated or in fact any delay in renegotiation due to the US now deciding that they wanted to come into this agreement.”

Mr Ciobo said on Sunday farmers could lose their advantage in gaining access to the lucrative Japanese market if the US joined the TPP. “We’ve got great access under a lot of the bilateral (free-trade agreements) that we have — this will be a further enhancement of that market access, particularly, for example, beef to Japan,” Mr Ciobo said.

“Now if the US isn’t part of it, well that is good for Australia relative to the US, because it means our beef farmers are getting better access than US beef farmers. But it is also important, equally, to look at this in aggregate terms to (see) what it actually means taking everything into account, including services exports (and) goods exports, as well as investment opportunities.

“It is not as cut and dry as just saying, that is what we know about agriculture — we have to look at it more broadly.”

Mr Ciobo said the US was interested in joining the TPP but only if the deal was substantially renegotiated, something the signatories would be reluctant to agree to. “That isn’t saying we don’t want the Americans back in — we do. But what I am saying is I can’t see us picking all the stitching that brought this deal together to accommodate the US at this point,” he told Sky News.