As the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) looms large on the horizon, Minister for Trade Steven Ciobo has begun spruiking a new regional free trade agreement.
During a speech at the Australia America Association in New York earlier this week, the minister said Australia was looking for opportunities to collaborate with the US and all of Australia’s partners in shaping the region.
“Our vision is for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) – a goal all APEC members have agreed to pursue,” he said.
“An FTAAP would underpin prosperity throughout the region for generations – it makes a lot of sense for us to come together in this common goal. It’s our sincere hope the United States will continue to work with us in this endeavour.”
FTAAP is still in its early stages. APEC members committed to a roadmap for the FTAAP in 2014, and commitment was re-affirmed at the APEC conference in Lima this past November.
Mr Ciobo continued in his speech to say Australia and the US had complementary strengths and a long history of effective collaboration across all fields, and particularly trade.
“We’ve been trading together since 1792, over a century before we’d even unified the Australian colonies,” he said.
“Our own free trade deal, the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement or AUSFTA, brought into force in 2005, is a great example of how even close friends can benefit from a high quality trade agreement.”
He said the US had become Australia’s second-largest trading partner, with two-way trade growing by about one-third since AUSFTA entered into force and are at their highest levels ever.
“Indeed, in the last five years the average annual growth rate of our exports to the United States has accelerated to 8.4 per cent,” Minister Ciobo said.
“This is a remarkable when you consider that since the 2008 crisis, world trade growth has averaged just 3.3%.”
Mr Ciobo went on to say that despite this performance, Australia continues to run a trade deficit with the US – currently $25.6 billion.
“In my view, running a trade deficit or surplus with any one country is not a measure of the success or otherwise of the trading relationship,” he said.
“A trade deficit with any one country simply reflects the decisions by private businesses and the preferences of our consumers.”
Minister Ciobo called for continued US leadership in international trade.
“For Australia, we firmly believe there remains an enduring role for American values, and American leadership, in global trade,” he said.