The Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth has released its interim report into the Australian Government’s approach to negotiating trade and investment agreements, examining how the process can be strengthened to build on Australia’s success as a trading nation and ensure agreements are of the greatest benefit for all Australians.
Australia’s agreements reduce barriers to international trade and investment for Australian goods and services, playing an important role in creating well-paid and secure jobs, improving our economic resilience, and contributing to economic growth and increased living standards.
Throughout the inquiry to date, the Committee has heard about the immense benefits of Australia’s participation in international trade, as well as the need to consider the potential effect of agreements on a wide range of stakeholders and how the benefits of trade are shared.
The Chair of the Committee, Mr Steve Georganas MP, said: “Australia’s approach to negotiating trade and investment agreements has served us well, however the Committee has sought to understand how the approach could be improved to ensure agreements are of greatest benefit to the Australian community.
“It’s evident to the Committee that more transparent consultation processes will allow increased understanding of the impact of trade agreements on stakeholders and that better utilising their insights and expertise can contribute to improved negotiation outcomes for Australia.”
The interim report makes 5 recommendations focussed on strengthening Australia’s approach by improving transparency, accountability, and oversight in the negotiation of trade and investment agreements. These include:
- Establishing a tripartite trade advisory committee to achieve a better balance between transparency and confidentiality in negotiations, enabling in-depth and informed feedback to government.
- Codifying the practice of publishing information outlining negotiation aims and objectives for all future trade and investment agreement negotiations.
- Providing transparency and information to stakeholders and the public about negotiations equivalent to the information provided by the other party.
- Regular briefings to parliamentary committees on the status and progress of trade and investment agreements.
- Undertaking independent periodic reviews of agreements to ensure that they are operating as intended and achieving the expected benefits.
In the final report, the Committee will cover the remaining inquiry Terms of Reference.
So far during the inquiry, the Committee has held six public hearings in Canberra and Melbourne, in addition to receiving 54 written submissions from businesses, unions, industry associations, government agencies, community groups and individuals. The Committee will hear more evidence before the inquiry concludes.
The Committee would like to thank all those who have taken part in the inquiry by providing written submissions and giving evidence at public hearings. The Committee looks forward to engaging further with stakeholders as it continues the inquiry and will provide a final report in due course.
The interim report can be found on the Committee’s inquiry webpage.
Office of Mr Steve Georganas MP
Chair, Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth
0437 387 378