Thursday 3rd Dec, 2020

Australia signs trade deal to boost exports to Indo-Pacific

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The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement between Australia and 14 other Indo-Pacific countries has been signed, with Australian farmers and businesses set to benefit from better export opportunities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the signing of the agreement signalled our region’s shared commitment to open trade and investment, despite the challenges of COVID-19.

“Our trade policy is all about supporting Australian jobs, boosting export opportunities and ensuring an open region with even stronger supply chains. RCEP builds on our trade successes and is good news for Australian businesses,” Morrison said.

“With one in five Australian jobs reliant on trade, the RCEP Agreement will be crucial as Australia and the region begin to rebuild from the COVID‑19 pandemic.

“This agreement covers the fastest growing region in the world and, as RCEP economies continue to develop and their middle classes grow, it will open up new doors for Australian farmers, businesses and investors.”

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Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said RCEP would be the world’s largest free trade agreement and would improve export opportunities for Australian farmers and businesses, especially in the services sector.

“This deal will further integrate Australian exporters into a booming part of the globe, with RCEP countries making up nearly 30 per cent of world GDP and the world´s population,” Birmingham said.

“RCEP has been driven by the ten ASEAN nations, who collectively constitute Australia’s second largest two-way trading partner and have successfully brought Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea into this regional trading block with them.

“This agreement may have taken eight years to negotiate but it could not have come at a more important time given the scale of global economic and trade uncertainty.”

Birmingham said there are particular gains for Australian providers within the financial services sector, education, health, engineering and other professional services, who can become better integrated within the region and have more access within RCEP countries.

“Australia is committed to fully ratifying RCEP as soon as possible so Australian farmers, businesses and investors can start to access the benefits of this agreement. It will also be an inclusive agreement, with the door open for others, especially India, to join if and when they are ready,” he said.

Australia will also commit $46 million to provide technical assistance and capacity building to help eligible ASEAN countries implement their RCEP commitments.

When finalised, the main benefits for Australia will be:

  • A new single set of rules and procedures for accessing preferential tariffs in any of the 15 RCEP markets
  • New scope for trade in services throughout the region including across telecommunications, professional and financial services.
  • Improved mechanisms for tackling non-tariff barriers including in areas such as customs procedures, quarantine and technical standards.
  • Greater investment certainty for businesses.
  • Rules on e-commerce to make it easier for businesses to trade online.
  • A common set of rules on intellectual property.
  • Agreed rules of origin that will increase the competitiveness of Australian inputs into regional production chains.