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FTA steals a march on NZ and US on agriculture in TPPA

Australia-Japan FTA steals a march on NZ and US on agriculture in TPPA

‘Australia appears to have stolen a march on New Zealand and other parties to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement by concluding its longstanding negotiations for a free trade agreement with Japan overnight’, according to Professor Jane Kelsey, who maintains a close watch on Japan’s TPPA strategy.

There is scant detail and no text will be available for at least another month – potentially after the TPPA ministers are expected to convene on either side of their APEC meeting in China on 17-18 May.

Summary information released by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade suggests Australia has settled for far less on agriculture than is being demanded of Japan in the TPPA. It may also have declined to include the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism in the agreement.

The deal on dairy seems to involve immediate tariff-free access for protein concentrates and casein and for a greater quantity of Australian cheddar cheese, with future opportunities for frozen yoghurt and ice-cream.

The concessions, at least on cheese, appear to take the form of tariff rate quotas available only to Australia.

The deal will give Australia priority access to what Japan is prepared to offer on agriculture in the twelve-party negotiations.

Professor Kelsey predicts ‘the US will not be impressed. President Obama is due to visit Japan from 23 to 25 April, where he was hoping to pen a deal. But the talks on agriculture remain heavily bogged down, with the US demanding much more than Japan is prepared to give’.

‘Not only has Australia got first dibs on what Japan is prepared to offer – it appears to have settled for a much lower standard than the US has demanded.’

‘If the US is unhappy, New Zealand should be distraught. Trade Minister Groser has insisted there must be comprehensive liberalisation of all agricultural products – and he has consistently said he will walk away if that is not achieved’, Kelsey observed.

‘The TPPA, if it happens, will be a deal brokered by and for the big players. Now Australia has abandoned New Zealand as well.’

‘It is time Tim Groser faced reality. New Zealand has nothing to bargain with and no political leverage. The risks to regulatory sovereignty from the TPPA are simply too high, and the prospects for economic benefits exceedingly low.’


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