Australia would welcome the United States coming back to the table to discuss re-joining the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, says Trade Minister Steven Ciobo.
Having the US come back into the TPP-11 would be a step in the right direction, he told a press conference at the weekend.
“Right now, Australian agricultural exporters in particular, are materially advantaged relative to American agricultural exporters, and I think that's one of the reasons why the United States is having a second look at possibly re-joining the TPP,” Mr Ciobo said.
But he cautioned there is “very little appetite among the TPP-11 countries” for a substantial renegotiation of the TPP-11.
“What we're all focussed on is making sure we can bring the TPP-11 into effect as soon as possible. At this stage we envisage that will probably be at the beginning of next year.”
According to a report last week, US President Donald Trump has asked key economic advisers to review the US decision to withdraw from the TPP following strong lobbying by farmers.
Mr Ciobo said the remaining 11 countries in the TPP are going through their domestic ratification processes, Australia included.
“And we hope the TPP-11 will come into effect at the start of next year. I don't believe there will be any appetite to put pause on that while we have further discussions with the United States,” he said.
“But I would stress, I certainly don't speak on behalf of the TPP-11, I'm only speaking in terms of Australia's view.”
Mr Ciobo could not say whether Australia, especially farmers, would be worse off if the US joins the TPP.
“Like anything, there’s pros and cons, we’ve got to work our way through it, but let’s just see what the Americans do.”
Stepping stone in the right direction
Mr Ciobo said he has not had any contact with Trump Administration since the President ordered his economic advisers to review the deal.
“But having the United States come back to the TPP-11 would be a stepping stone in the right direction.
“This is a great deal, the fact that Australia and Japan worked so constructively, cooperatively together with the one nine countries that comprise the TPP-11.
“All of us committed to achieving a great outcome in the Pacific, a great outcome that’s particularly of benefit to Australia and, indeed, for the other ten countries as well.”
Mr Ciobo said TPP-11 is a big positive for Australian exporters together with recent free trade agreements with China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Peru.