Pacific trade pact set to pass parliament

Angus Livingston
(Australian Associated Press)


A massive Pacific trade deal involving 11 countries looks set to pass parliament after Labor MPs agreed to back it despite some reservations.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is now expected to pass the Senate with bipartisan support, after the government could not secure crossbench votes.

Opposition trade spokesman Jason Clare told Labor MPs on Tuesday they should support the deal, which the government says will deliver $15.6 billion a year in economic benefits.

About 23 Labor MPs spoke on the TPP, with a slight majority of them opposed to it.

Mr Clare said the deal would give Australia improved access to 13 per cent of the global economy, and improved environmental and labour standards.

He also said after Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP it made strategic sense for Australia to draw closer to the region with economic ties.

Opponents of the bill said there were issues with recognition of foreign qualifications, protections for local workers and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions.

But Mr Clare argued there was only one new ISDS provision – with Canada – and that could be dealt with if Labor wins government.

One MP moved an amendment saying the TPP was not in line with Labor policies, but it was defeated, and then MPs voted to support the bill.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Labor had thrown workers under the bus.

“Labor has betrayed Australian workers, and our sovereignty, by paving the way to locking our nation to the dangerous TPP,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“This is a trade agreement that gives corporations the power to sue governments for raising wages, protecting the environment or reducing the cost of life-saving medication.”

Business groups have urged Labor to support the deal, but some unions have opposed it.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham told parliament the TPP would open up new markets for Australian, sugar, beef and grains, among other products.

He said the deal will increase income generation in Australia, and create job opportunities.

The TPP includes Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Canada, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore.


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