Pushing ahead with ratification of the Trans Pacific Partnership is all about jobs for Australia, according to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr Turnbull was speaking after US President Donald Trump formally withdrew the US from the 12-country agreement negotiated over the past decade.
He said Mr Trump’s decision was a “loss for the TPP” but the agreement did not include significant gains for Australia in relation to the US because of the existing bilateral deal between the two countries.
According to the Prime Minister, trade is more important to Australia, with a higher proportion of local jobs reliant on exports than the US.
“Our economy is not the United States,” he said, “other leaders can make what decisions they want but Australian trade policy is made in Canberra.”
He said, regardless of the US decision, ratification could still be beneficial because the agreement provides significant gains for Australian exporters wanting enhanced market access to the other signatory countries.
Mr Turnbull said he again discussed ratification of the TPP with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a telephone call Monday night. Japanese media has reported Mr Abe is now focussed less on pushing ahead with ratification than securing US support for the deal.
Mr Turnbull cited disagreement over the TPP inside Mr Trump’s own party, with new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Republican-dominated Congress backing the deal, and even suggested China could join a revised agreement.
It is unclear how ratification would impact commitments made under the TPP in relation to issues pushed strongly by the US, particularly on intellectual property for pharmaceuticals.
Ratification would require some renegotiation of the TPP because US withdrawal means it cannot meet the ‘trigger’ to come into effect – the TPP text requires 85 per cent of signatory countries, based on economic output, to ratify the agreement. The US economy represents around 60 per cent of total economic output of the signatory countries.
Labor argues US withdrawal from the agreement means the TPP is “dead”.
However, Mr Turnbull accused leader Bill Shorten of “gutlessness” and of reversing “30 years” of Labor support for free trade.
“It’s extraordinary a Labor leader has decided to side with the protectionists,” he said, pointing to the roles of former Labor prime ministers Rudd and Gillard in supporting and negotiating the TPP.