Reforms to Australia’s Trade Policy

On 12 April 2011 Minister for Trade the Hon Dr Craig Emerson MP announced changes to Australia’s trade policy, saying that “sound trade policy and solid economic reform work hand-in-hand.”

The new trade strategy is based on five key principles:

  1. Unilateralism –ongoing trade-related economic reform without regard to whether reform is taking place in other countries.
  2. Non-discrimination – reductions in protection offered to all countries rather than preferential bilateral and regional trade agreements.
  3. Separation – the pursuit of trade policy without regard for foreign policy or other considerations.
  4. Transparency – the use of public consultations with business groups, trade unions and community organisations, along with parliamentary scrutiny, throughout the negotiation of trade agreements; independent review of the final agreement to ensure public confidence in the results of economic modelling.
  5. Indivisibility of trade policy and economic reform – the concurrent execution of trade policy and wider economic reform in recognition of the positive economic effects of domestic economic reform in partnership with better market access.

The Gillard Government remains committed to an ambitious and comprehensive outcome at the Doha Round which would liberalise trade in agriculture, manufacturing and services. Australia’s highest regional trade negotiation priority at present is the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Other priorities include the pursuit of Free Trade Agreements with Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, China and the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Government will pursue bilateral trade deals only where they offer net benefits to Australia and where they do not impede the progress of multilateral agreements.

Under the new trade policy, Australia will offer high-quality, truly liberalising trade agreements to all our negotiation partners, without regard for geo-political considerations. Where a trading partner has already given access to Australia’s foreign competitors in its markets, the Australian Government will seek parity with those competitors.

The new policy will reduce foreign tariff barriers and restrictions on Australian exports of commodities and goods, while also reducing non-tariff barriers at the border and behind-the-border restrictions that impede trade in services.

The Minister’s press release is available here. The full text of the new trade policy is available here.