Andrew Robb, the Australian Government’s Special Envoy for Trade, on the impact of regional trade deals: Viewpoint

Andrew Robb, the Australian Government’s Special Envoy for Trade

The economic fortunes of Australia and Brunei Darussalam are both heavily dependent on the goods and services we export and on our ability to attract foreign investment to develop and expand our productive sectors. Greater trade and investment flows are fundamental to creating jobs for our people and ensuring our nations’ prosperity.

Our shared commitment to global trade liberalisation is reflected in the low tariffs and minimal other barriers to trade and investment we maintain. Australia and Brunei Darussalam are active members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and have entered into legally binding trade and investment commitments through a range of bilateral and plurilateral free trade agreements (FTAs), with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

Australia worked closely with Brunei Darussalam, as the ASEAN coordinator, in the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA). This agreement, which entered into force in January 2010, was the first multi-country agreement signed by Australia, and is also the most comprehensive and ambitious FTA signed by the ASEAN countries to date, simultaneously covering goods, services, investment and intellectual property.

This close cooperation between Australia and Brunei Darussalam has been built upon in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, which were concluded in October 2015. The TPP will be the world’s largest regional free trade agreement, with an initial membership of Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam. These 12 countries represent an enormous market, accounting for almost 40% of the global economy, over 800m people and 25% of all international trade.

After more than five years of hard work by our officials, each TPP member is now in the process of undertaking its own domestic treaty-making process, which needs to be completed in order for the agreement to enter into force.

The TPP will substantially increase international investment and trade opportunities for all parties to the agreement in the fast-growing and increasingly important Asia-Pacific region. It will make positive contributions to future standards of living, economic growth and jobs for our people.

The TPP has not emerged in a vacuum. It stems from a genuine commitment to trade liberalisation shared by the 12 parties, building on a network of pre-existing FTAs. The TPP is a high-quality, comprehensive, 21st-century agreement, meaning that it will deliver deeper liberalisation across a broader range of sectors and address a set of issues which have not traditionally been covered in FTAs.

Even in cases where an FTA existed between two members prior to the TPP – for example as is the case with Australia and Brunei through the AANZFTA –the TPP will deliver further market access, including by opening government procurement markets, establishing disciplines to strengthen investment in the energy and resources sector, and bolstering the supply of goods and services by companies to state-owned enterprises operating in this key sector of Brunei’s economy. In cases where there was no pre-existing agreement – and for Australia and Brunei Darussalam this is the case with countries like Canada, Mexico and Peru – the preferential market access is both new and potentially quite considerable.

The TPP will create new and exciting opportunities for investors by providing a more predictable and transparent regulatory environment. It will also establish a more seamless trade and investment environment across the 12 member countries by setting commonly agreed-upon rules and promoting transparency of laws and regulations, providing greater certainty for businesses, reducing costs and facilitating their participation in regional supply chains.

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The Report: Brunei Darussalam 2016

Economy chapter from The Report: Brunei Darussalam 2016

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