What the US withdrawal from the TPP means for Australians

An opportunity to renegotiate pain points

President Trump's decision to withdraw the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could have big implications for Australia and our economy.

The US led the charge on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but following its withdrawal, much of it will have to be remodelled, says trade minister Steven Ciobo.

"I have been speaking at length with my TPP counterparts on ways to lock in the benefits from the TPP, without the United States if need be.

"This week at the World Economic Forum I met with Japan, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, New Zealand and Malaysia to discuss alternatives."

Twelve countries were involved in the negotiation of the TPP, including Australia and the US, which took place in secrecy over eight years.

Australia has an opportunity to make the treaty-making process transparent, says Tom Godfrey, the head of media at CHOICE. 

"It was disappointing that the TPP negotiations took place in secrecy. CHOICE believes the text of agreements should be released at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure effective public consultation and scrutiny."

An independent cost–benefit analysis should also be undertaken to determine what Australians are conceding and gaining from the deal, he added.

"CHOICE believes this type of analysis should be conducted before Australia agrees to sign up to any trade agreement, let alone one as large and complex as the TPP."

Select conditions of the TPP championed by the United States may no longer be pertinent following its withdrawal, such as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause, which makes it possible for a foreign company to sue the Australian government in accordance with public interest laws.  

Perhaps the most well-known example of such a case was when Phillip Morris tobacco sued the Australian Government over the use of plain cigarette packaging. The federal government won the case on a procedural issue, but the reported cost to Australian taxpayers was approximately $50 million.

The Australian Government should not ratify any agreement that includes an ISDS, says Godfrey.

"If they're going to push on with a version of the TPP, Australia should negotiate ISDS opt-outs on a bilateral basis with the remaining parties to the agreement, like we already have with New Zealand."