Inquiry report backs major Asia trade deal

A major regional trade deal involving Australia and China has taken another step forward with a bipartisan parliamentary committee endorsing it.

The treaties committee on Wednesday released its report into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, recommending binding treaty action be taken.

“The committee is of the view that, on balance, it would be in Australia’s interest to ratify RCEP,” the report said.

RCEP covers 2.2 billion people and 29 per cent of global economic output.null

It incorporates Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Labor unsuccessfully sought to add a recommendation that the government conduct and publicly release independent economic analysis of RCEP.

However, there was bipartisan agreement on a recommendation for the government to pursue the “restoration of civilian, democratic rule in Myanmar as a foreign policy priority, and consider making a declaration to this effect at the time of ratification”.

The federal parliament's bipartisan treaties committee has backed the RCEP trade deal.
The federal parliament’s bipartisan treaties committee has backed the RCEP trade deal.

During the inquiry, unions and human rights advocates voiced concerns about the inclusion of Myanmar in the deal.

A further recommendation called for “the inclusion of labour, human rights and environmental provisions within the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement at the time of the first review”.

Labor members of the committee backed the argument of a number of unions and business groups in calling for more detailed economic analysis.

The Greens argued the deal should not go ahead as there was no clear evidence of economic benefits and no minimum requirements for signatory governments to uphold human rights, labour rights, and environmental protections.

By : Paul Osborne – Australian Associated Press / THE CANBERRA TIMES

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