RESPONSE TO MINISTERIAL STATEMENT ON AMENDMENT OF SINGAPORE AUSTRALIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
Thank you very much Mr Speaker.
And I thank the Minister for his Statement to the House.
As I said last year, Labor welcomes this update to the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
The agreement was signed by the Howard Government and the Tong Government in 2003 and it was updated by the Gillard Government in 2011.
This is the second update to this agreement.
Singapore is our fifth largest trading partner. This update provides a framework for bilateral investments.
It also increases the recognition of a number of Australian qualifications. This will provide more opportunities for Australian workers in the areas of education, law, e-commerce, telecommunications and professional services.
All of this is good news.
Unfortunately this is the only substantial thing the Turnbull Government has done on trade in the last 18 months.
The Hawke and Keating Governments are the undisputed titans of trade. The open competitive economy that we have today is built on the wreckage of the tariff walls they ripped down.
No other Australian Government before or since holds a candle to them. But that doesn’t mean nothing has happened.
The Howard Government delivered three Free Trade Agreements – including this one with Singapore.
The last Labor Government also delivered three Free Trade Agreements.
So did the Abbott Government. In fact they delivered three Free Trade Agreements in 18 months.
In the same time this Government hasn’t delivered one new Free Trade Agreement.
This update is the only thing they have done.
And they promised so much more.
They promised they would sign a deal with India by the end of 2015. That hasn’t happened.
They promised negotiations would be underway by now with the EU and we are still waiting for the scoping study to be developed.
Steven Ciobo, Minister for Trade: When did we say that?
Clare: That was in the Governor General’s Address, you might check that.
The Trade in Services Agreement was also supposed to be signed last year.
The Government said last year – also in the Governor General’s Address after the election – that the Government would be playing a ‘leading role’ in finalising this agreement.
A few weeks ago we found out they have less than one full time person working on it in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
At the start of this year they also had the great idea to rush legislation into the Parliament to ratify the TPP to pressure Donald Trump to support it.
And didn’t that work out well.
I do want to encourage the Government though on the work they are doing to strike a Free Trade Agreement with Indonesia. This is where the focus should be.
There is a lot of potential here to strike a good deal.
Indonesia is our next door neighbour. In population terms it’s the fourth biggest country in the world. By the middle of this century it’s expected to be the fourth biggest economy in the world.
At the moment trade with Indonesia is massively underdone and this is an opportunity to fix that.
Indonesia is just the start.
The Prime Minister should also put his shoulder to the wheel to help finalise RCEP – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Now that the United States has pulled out of the TPP this is the regional trade agreement that holds the most potential.
If a good deal can be struck here it will bring together 16 countries and about 30 percent of the world’s GDP in one trade agreement – that includes China, Japan, India, all the ASEAN nations and us.
The key point, Mr Deputy Speaker, is this. This is a government that talks a big game on trade. The PM gives lots of lectures about trade. But lectures don’t create jobs. Good deals do.
We welcome the update to the Singapore Agreement, but this Government has a lot more work to do.