April Trade Update
It has been an incredibly active month in the trade policy arena. At one level a trade war looms between the US and China. Others such as the EU might get involved. At another our PM did great work in Paris, London and Berlin advancing our interest in the FTA with the EU and UK. And we also had renewed talk of a FTA negotiation with Russia and the new ideas of a Commonwealth wide FTA and even one with North Korea. Now that Deputy PM has caught the FTA bug it is spreading fast! And back home the Government is trying to define what a progressive FTA agenda looks like. Consultations will begin soon. It looks as though ISDS is out but gender, indigenous people, SMEs, climate change, environment and labour standards are in.
We continue to expect an announcement on the launch of this negotiation in late May.
Most members are making progress towards ratification of this agreement.
Real negotiations are happening and progress appears to be being made.
We have been pretty negative about the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations because the level of ambition on goods and services trade liberalisation is well below what we would normally accept in a FTA. But we get the sense that the Government is softening us up for an outcome this year in this negotiation. The arguments being used are that while the access being offered by India is far from ideal it is better than we currently enjoy. There could be a cost if we stand outside this agreement while others sign up. There is also an issue around global trade rules. Thanks to US vetoes of WTO Appellate Body Members the system will from 1 October become very constrained in who it can hear cases. The way the rules are written mean that no appeals involving China, US or India can be heard (this is because there will only be three “judges” left. Each case requires three “judges” but no “judge” from a party to a dispute can hear an appeal on that dispute.). RCEP would allow members to keep India adhering to WTO type rules.
Singapore CEP Upgrade
There has been real tension in the relationship with Singapore in recent months over the proposal to breach our bilateral treaty as part of the new overseas investment rules. Singapore wants the same exemption as Australia. Hopefully the visit to Singapore by Rt Hon Winston Peters will have resolved this matter.