After 5 years of negotiations and a last minute “go around” at the recent Maui meetings, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) equivalent of Papal white smoke has appeared in Atlanta with an announcement that a deal has been struck on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The deal includes 12 countries, some of whom are already parties to FTAs with Australia and some of whom are not parties to FTAs with Australia already (Canada, Mexico and Peru).

While no deal is perfect the TPP appears to offer significant gains for Australia.  Based on reports in today's press, Australia has seemingly advanced its existing agenda in terms of export of goods and services (including access in the Government Procurement market) and improved the environment for outbound and inbound investment.  This includes improved outcomes on beef, sugar, rice, dairy, cereals and seafood exports as well as reductions on duties on imported goods to assist Australian businesses and consumers.

There are some ground – breaking provisions compared to other FTAs.  One deals with the potential anti – competitive behaviours of State Owned Enterprises and Designated Monopolies and another seeks to specifically improve the position of SMEs whose interests are often overlooked.  Reports suggest that there are good outcomes on labour, environment and anti – corruption.

Importantly there seems to be one set of Rules of Origin, provision for accumulation of origin status through production across the region and a regime which will not require Certificates of Origin to claim preference.    This is a more liberal regime than which exists under other FTAs.

We now await the text of the Agreement and will no doubt wait much longer for the approval by contracting countries which could well be delayed by forthcoming US and Canadian elections.