This paper suggests a process for consultation with business, consumers and various levels of government that would enhance outcomes.
Australia has an open economy that is heavily dependent on trade for its wellbeing. Well formulated evidence based trade policy therefore matters greatly, as does the form and content of these economic agreements.
Past trade policy practice has been focussed on consultations with industry as a precursor to negotiations, with the aim of rectifying market access issues. Today’s trade treaties go far beyond negotiations about actual trade. They also tackle a wide range of domestic policy issues.
These broader ‘economic partnership’ or ‘comprehensive trade’ agreements deal as much, if not more, in regulatory politics as in traditional trade policy. Consequently they affect many nontrading businesses and many segments of the wider community. This article draws on three different perspectives to suggest that consultations on these new generation deals need to be broader and more robust. Input from at least three major sectors of society is essential to identify Australia’s priority ‘demands’ in a negotiation, and those areas of domestic activity that are non-negotiable.
Here we suggest a process for consultation with business, consumers and various levels of government that would enhance outcomes. We suggest that the national interest would be better identified in a process that is separate from any particular prospective trade deal (and its politically imposed time constraints) and which fully accounts for our domestic settings. The objective of these agreements should be the maximum benefit to the national interest, rather than achieving specific export successes. Such market entry issues create benefits for only selected businesses. A focus on a broader agenda of prioritised domestic reform would result in a stronger increase in national welfare.