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Australian Trade Agreements – A Divergence between Trade Policy and Business Outcomes – Can They Deliver Trade-related Growth for Australia?

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The recently negotiated Japan Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (jaepa) is the latest in a series of trade agreements that seek to create a trading environment for Australian firms delivering outcomes similar to those anticipated under the wto multilateral model. However, the gains to business and the economy from this approach to trade policy have been particular to specific economic sectors and have generally not resulted in significant broad based economic benefits. In particular, the negotiation of trade agreements by Australia has been characterised by the reduction of trade-in-goods barriers (tariffs etc) which have assisted some agricultural and resource activities and compromised value adding, high employment sectors of the economy such as manufacturing. In contrast, Australian trading partners have increasingly sought concessions relating to Foreign Direct Investment (fdi), allowing their businesses to vertically integrate productive activity. The apparent disconnection between Australian trade policy outcomes and the requirements of business and the broader economy stem from failures at both the fundamental level of policy creation and the negotiation and implementation of the agreements. This paper argues that Australian trade policy needs to develop a new, more flexible and responsive model of trade negotiation in order to better serve the economy and its businesses.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Transnational Law, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia,; 2: Director, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Melbourne, Australia,


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