House debates

Wednesday, 15 August 2018


Joint Standing Committee on Treaties; Report

9:45 am

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, I present the committee's report entitled, Report 180: Peru FTA; EU Framework Agreement; Timor Treaty-Maritime Boundaries; WIPO Australian Patent Office; Scientific Technical Cooperation: Italy and Brazil.

by leave—Today, I rise to make a statement concerning the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties' Report 180.

The report deals with seven treaty actions including the Peru free trade agreement, the Timor maritime boundaries treaty and two scientific technical cooperation agreements.

The Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement is a cracker of an agreement, and it's a great pleasure to be able to be in here to see that ratified. It's intended to open new trade and investment opportunities for Australia. Negotiations for PAFTA were entered into in the wake of the collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and in tandem with the negotiations for what we colloquially call the TPP-11—11 because the US decided to withdraw. The committee is currently also reviewing the TPP-11 and it's great to be able to conclude PAFTA now, in the wake of that. PAFTA is expected to provide better market access than TPP-11, which in itself is extraordinary. We found that many of the issues raised in this inquiry were also addressed in the TPP-11 inquiry and we have chosen to review those common issues in more detail in our report on the TPP-11, but it is a great pleasure to see this government deliver another free trade agreement with our great friends in Peru.

With regard to trade agreements, the committee acknowledges the ongoing concerns caused by the continuing proliferation of these agreements with the same partners. The complexity of entering these markets—some call it the 'noodle bowl effect'—may be hindering businesses from taking full advantage of the opportunities presented, because opportunities are covered under numerous agreements. We as a committee will continue at a bipartisan level to encourage DFAT and other relevant departments and organisations to continue developing and providing practical assistance to assist Australian businesses to understand and access these markets. In that respect, some of DFAT's web-based services are excellent in helping Australian businesses work out which free trade agreement or which market access it's best for them to submit their goods and services under.

The EU Framework Agreement formalises a range of existing bilateral cooperation and dialogue processes between Australia and the EU. Although this appears to be an aspirational agreement, the committee recognises the need to reaffirm commitments to high-level political dialogue, shared values and the common principles that underpin that bilateral relationship, to allow further extensive trade negotiations to build on that.

The committee welcomes the finalisation of the treaty between Australia and Timor-Leste establishing our maritime boundaries. The agreement settles a permanent maritime boundary between Australia and Timor-Leste, bringing certainty after some fifty years of controversy. The committee has taken a continuing interest in the issues raised during this inquiry and notes that, despite reservations, both parties appear to be satisfied with the outcome—certainly, Australia is. The area is economically important to both countries and we urge the government to fully support the ongoing development of the transitional arrangements designed to support businesses operating in the area.

The agreement with the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization ensures that the Australian Patent Office remains an international authority. The committee acknowledges the important work done by IP Australia and the Australian Patent Office, for both Australian and international clients.

Finally, the two agreements on scientific technical cooperation, one with Italy the other with Brazil, reinforce Australia's commitment to international cooperation in scientific and technological fields with two important partners. On that note, of course, the time is coming to an end for our ambassador from Brazil to Australia. We will be sad to see him go, but it is important and well recognised that he goes on a high with this treaty being ratified. The agreements provide formal frameworks to support strong and productive scientific and technological relationships. They also set out principles for the management of collaborative activities, including cost sharing and allocation of benefits.

The committee has recommended all of the six treaty actions be ratified and binding treaty action be taken in each case. We note that the termination agreement for the previous Peru-Australia investment treaty will happen automatically when PAFTA comes into effect.

The report also contains the committee's review of four non- or minor treaty actions, including a further extension to the agreement with the Netherlands for the purpose of responding to the downing of flight MH17. This agreement ensures that Australian personnel can continue to carry out their important work in that area with regard to that incident.

On behalf of the committee, I commend the report to the House.