Australia's Arrogant, Irresponsible Trade Minister Rejects Calls For Cost-Benefit Analysis Of TPP

from the would-anyone-run-a-business-like-this? dept

Mike has just written about the way the US public is being short-changed over the promised “debate” that would follow the completion of the TPP negotiations. That broken promise is just part of the general dishonesty surrounding the whole deal. For example, the public was told that it was not possible for it to make its views known during the negotiations, because they had to be secret — even though many other trade deals aren’t — but that once everything was agreed there would be ample time for a truly democratic debate. Of course, at that point nothing could be changed, so the debate was little more than a token gesture, but now it seems the US public won’t even get that.

It will be cold comfort to learn that US citizens are not the only ones being denied the opportunity to engage in a serious discussion with politicians about the merits or otherwise of TPP. Here’s what’s happening in Australia, as reported by the Guardian:

The trade minister, Andrew Robb, has rejected calls for an independent cost-benefit analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the World Bank estimated it could lift Australia?s economic output by just 0.7% by 2030.

Robb, who signed the regional trade pact with counterparts from 11 other nations in New Zealand on Thursday, dismissed opponents of the deal as “the usual suspects” who would not be persuaded by a new inquiry.

To dismiss those who want to weigh up the evidence for and against TPP as “the usual suspects” is insulting not just to them, but also to the Australian public, who are effectively being told that if they dare to question the value of TPP, they are just “the usual suspects.” This is pretty rich, too:

There?s nothing that they?ve said that convinces me that they?re genuine about this … I think the community accepts that we’ve got 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth in Australia, we’ve got millions of jobs which have come off the back of Australia opening up and participating in these sorts of major agreements around the world with all of our trading partners.

So Robb is saying that those who want a mature debate about TPP must convince him, rather than the other way around. And claiming that Australia’s growth is due to trade agreements — without providing any evidence — expects people to be naive enough to fall for the old ‘correlation implies causation’ trick. In any case, it’s the details of the deal that are being questioned, many of which are quite antithetical to genuine free trade — enhanced monopoly protections for copyright and biologics being two examples.

Robb’s problem is that the traditional instruments of government persuasion — econometric models that purport to demonstrate the benefits of signing up to trade agreements — reveal that TPP is likely to bring Australia vanishingly small economic benefits. As we wrote recently, the World Bank predicts that the annual boost to Australia’s GDP thanks to TPP will be around 0.07%. The country’s trade minister tries to side-step that awkward fact as follows:

Robb told Sky News there was “a war by modelling” occurring. He pointed to a US Department of Agriculture study that showed Australia’s agriculture sector would be the “biggest winner by a country mile”.

In other words, don’t look at that World Bank study, look at this US Department of Agriculture (USDA) study instead. Techdirt discussed that analysis over a year ago, noting one rather pertinent fact that Robb somehow forgot to mention: the USDA predicted that the total boost to the Australian economy from TPP would be precisely zero, zip, zilch, nada. If Australia’s agricultural sector is a big winner from TPP, there must also be some big losers to balance things out.

Those facts probably explains in part why Robb refuses to ask the Australian government’s own Productivity Commission for an analysis of TPP, even though its job is precisely to provide “independent research and advice to Government on economic, social and environmental issues affecting the welfare of Australians.” The other reason why he won’t want them giving an expert opinion is probably because of this comment in the Commission’s Trade and Assistance Review 2013-14:

Preferential trade agreements add to the complexity and cost of international trade through substantially different sets of rules of origin, varying coverage of services and potentially costly intellectual property protections and investor-state dispute settlement provisions.

The emerging and growing potential for trade preferences to impose net costs on the community presents a compelling case for the final text of an agreement to be rigorously analysed before signing. Analysis undertaken for the Japan-Australia agreement reveals a wide and concerning gap compared to the Commission’s view of rigorous assessment.

Robb’s reluctance may be understandable, but it is also unforgivable. The benefits for Australia from TPP are routinely exaggerated, but no account is ever taken of the costs of signing up to the trade agreement — a situation that is plainly absurd. Any manager that suggested closing an important business deal without carefully weighing up both the benefits and the costs would be rightly dismissed for gross negligence and incompetence. And yet Robb expects 23 million Australians to agree to TPP on precisely that basis, simply because he says it’s a good deal. That’s not just appallingly arrogant, but also profoundly irresponsible.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Australia's Arrogant, Irresponsible Trade Minister Rejects Calls For Cost-Benefit Analysis Of TPP”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
CharlieBrown says:

Let Me Be The First Aussie Today......

…. to say that NOBODY gives a fuck anymore about our current government, who have failed to keep a single fucking election promise (other than fucking up our national broadband network) and will be turfed out so damn fast next election, around the same time the US has theirs, that records may well be broken in land-speed! They couldn’t even keep the same guy in charge for a full term after critisizing the other party for failing to do the same!

Another Aussie Commentor says:

Re: Let Me Be The First Aussie Today......

to say that NOBODY gives a fuck anymore about our current government,

Wrong. There are many who do. They are frustrated by the mongrel attitude exhibited by the current government, the current opposition and the current unchanging bureaucracy (who really don’t care who is in government). There are few of the House or the Senate who are worth anything other than being party boys and girls. Few can think, few act, few consider the nation before themselves.

Unfortunately, the mobs want their bread and circuses and which ever party promises the biggest party gets the vote. It would be nice if we could get rid of the party system all together, but we all know that won’t happen.

As long as there are so many who are “true believers”, then we are screwed. We live in a country where the curse has come true and the chickens have turned into emus and have kicked the dunny down.

There is not a single political party in this country whose policies are for this country (for all of this country). I am sure that the various “true believers” will come out in support of their chosen view and dispute this.

Irrespective of party, the leaders of these parties are no different than any where else in the world. They are corrupt to the core. The majority of members are simply camp followers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Let Me Be The First Aussie Today......

There are so few members of political parties in Australia that the first poster’s comment about nobody giving a fig about politics rings true. The MSM is owned & run by members of the ruling right wing government & they rarely let the readers/viewers/listeners know how bad their LNP government really are, yet find the smallest fault with the union backed opposition Labor party.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Let Me Be The First Aussie Today......

Look to Victoria, Boy, look to Victoria. One of the top stories here is about the corruption in High Places (Federal Minister flying to China to lend support for mate doing business there). Okay, okay, it was in that rough rag, The Herald-Sun, but still.. That rag tends to kick both sides in the nether regions, whether it be cronyism/corruption for the Lib/Nats or the cronyism/corruption with the current state ALP gov.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Let Me Be The First Aussie Today......

The Herald Sun is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. In Australia Rupert is the kingmaker & he didn’t anoint the current PM Malcolm Turnbull to be there as he had his own puppet PM in Tony Abbott. Just like he anointed Kevin Rudd who grovelled to NY Rupert back in 2007. Of course when Gillard was made PM by the Labor party all bets were off & the attack was directed at PM Julia Gillard. Now as the Liberals are Rupert’s best friends he can’t attack the current PM who was elected to the position by the Liberal Party so he does it in a round-about way using willing proxies such as other MP’s to do his dirty work & attacking other Liberal MP’s to smear PM Turnbull.

Backbencher Abbott was recently in New York getting his latest instructions from Rupert with his landlady Peta Credlin keeping him company & making sure he got the message loud & clear as has been done before in the past. We haven’t heard of PM Turnbull getting his instructions from Rupert as he is on the outer as far as Rupert is concerned, despite the destruction of the NBN on Rupert’s orders. So expect Toxic Tony Abbott to back in the top job soon, all with the blessing of good old uncle Rupert & his lickspittle editors attacking the current PM in the nicest possible way. No one goes up against Rupert Murdoch in Australian politics and gets away with it, ever! Why have money, power & influence & not abuse it for your own ends?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Let Me Be The First Aussie Today......

That little fellow Rupert is no more the Kingmaker than Dame Edna is. There are too many forces at play for him to have the sole influence today. He can’t even keep his own house in order, let alone control outside of it.

You would be better blaming the head of the CFMEU for the selection. Rupert may be rich but he has become relatively irrelevant today. His influence is decreasing and soon enough will be zero.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Let Me Be The First Aussie Today......

So who leaked to News Corp newspapers that backbencher Tony Abbott had a personal meeting with the POTUS, Barak Obama, oh that’s right, the person that brought him along to the luncheon as his guest, Mr. Rupert Murdoch! Then when some real reporting was done, not by Rupert’s minions of course, the truth came out that it was only a handshake with the POTUS, which everyone else in the room received as well.
This goes to show that Rupert is still pulling the strings of Toxic Tony Abbott & wishes to destabilize the current PM who wasn’t anointed by the kingmaker himself. It is easy to see a pattern emerging after Kevin Rudd decided to hang around for another bite at the top job once dumped by your party, you don’t bother trying unless you have powerful people such as Rupert backing you to the hilt. No politician is that stupid, not even Tony Abbott, our own Village Idiot who gave George W. Bush a challenge as the most stupid, ignorant leader of a country.

As for irrelevance, what do the morning TV shows do when discussing the news of the day? That’s right, they turn to what the News Corp dailies are reporting on, as they are too lazy to find news that their own reporters should be investigating instead. If it ain’t in the newspapers it just isn’t discussed, unless the show was paid to discuss the topic disguised as ‘news’ or ‘important information’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Let Me Be The First Aussie Today......

Please don’t call Rupert Murdoch irrelevant in Australian politics today as he puts his money where his mouth as it costs him 10’s of millions of dollars to run loss making newspapers. If they were irrelevant then they would be closed down, however his Chief editor at the Australian (the Big One in Rupert’s stable of Aust. newspapers) stated before a senate committee that the reason Rupert doesn’t shut down such loss making companies is that they deliver him a powerful stage to influence politicians on what they must do to ensure his continued profits in other businesses.

Maybe you could entertain us with why our Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was visiting Mr. Murdoch in New York recently if he has no relevance in today’s political landscape.

Then tell us why the current government wishes to allow the concentration of media ownership to continue, despite already being the most concentrated ownership in the Western world. It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that if it isn’t changed then Rupert’s son’s would have to sell off their interests in other media companies when they take over from the old man when he passes away?

If you think that you can convince readers that rich, powerful people have no influence over politicians then you have an uphill task ahead of you. That’s what this TPP is all about, total control of politicians by the owners of the transnational corporations who put the amassing of money over everything else. The golden rule is those who have the gold make the rules & currently Rupert has enough gold to make whatever rules he needs to profit in Australia & elsewhere for that matter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Let Me Be The First Aussie Today......

What Sepo Bull-Shit. The worst thing in this country are the lazy fucks that believed in Abbot and his Liberal Mates and voted for them. Those That believed The Liberals’ Tax Cuts would bring Economic Heaven. All that happened was a budget hole that they can’t get enough spending cuts or New taxes to fill, and they have cut heavily. They undermined the currency, leading to a 30% drop in the exchange rate, killed local manufacturing so now we have to buy everything from overseas, at a substantial premium than before. And Even before the TPP was “Concluded” They did a free trade deal with China, the most worthless treaty, since there were no tariff barriers before the treaty. The only significant clause forces down wages in this country (if an joint investment in Australia is valued at over $150 million, The wages from the country with the lower wage scale shall be applied.) And How does that help citizens and their families.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Let Me Be The First Aussie Today......

You are obviously anti-Liberal Party, are you just as anti-Labour as well? Because all sides are as bad as each other. Would you like to return to Rudd and Gillard? The current government is no different to them. It is about which of your mates you want to please.

As far as ole Rupo is concerned, he isn’t that far off from the grave, he is in his mid-80’s and it won’t take much for his health to go downhill fast and he expires.

When he does, then we can sit back and watch the bun-fight as his progeny fight it out for control.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Let Me Be The First Aussie Today......

The term you guys are looking for is “Neoliberalism,” the belief that there’s an actual free market and that market forces trump all.

Most of the big parties subscribe to it, so it’s not a partisan thing, it’s a religion masquerading as a political ideology. The worst part of it is that the only opposition we’ve actually got is locked in a time warp in which class is still a thing. They’re useless!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Let Me Be The First Aussie Today......

Then let me be the second (or later) Aussie to say: politics in general in Australia is a wasteland. No-one in Australia gives a fuck anymore. In some elections, 30% of people don’t even bother turning up to vote*, despite voting being mandatory and carrying a fine. If that doesn’t show a clear disengagement, nothing will.
(* For those who may wonder: voting is mandatory, but lodging a valid vote is not. You can turn up, screw your vote into a ball and set it on fire if you wanted.)

The Coalition is only concerned about keeping their own jobs and pay packets. Labor is a front for union corruption. The Greens are noisy lunatics. And the less said about the joke that was the PUP, the better.

It really doesn’t matter who is in power or what reviews are done. In the end, when the US says “jump!”, Australia asks “how high?”

But maybe, just maybe, this will be final straw. Perhaps with the ridiculous copyright, companies holding the government to ransom and increasing medicine costs, people will do something about it. Because we are sick of being held to the whims of American companies.

A further glimmer of hope: it’s an election year in Australia (and the US too). There’s a chance this ‘trade agreement’ will stall in one or both countries and ultimately go nowhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Andrew Robb is leaving us guessing a bit on which ship he is jumping onto next, however he says that at 64yo he still has plenty to offer & wishes to do some work in mental health as he was affected by depression some years ago. So maybe a big pharma job is on the table for what his colleagues describe as a wonderful man.

Anonymous Coward says:

tell me the name of anyone in a similar government position, in any country, obviously including the USA as it is behind this and just about every one of these ‘deals’, who isn’t of the same opinion, not just of the lack of interest and knowledge of the people they are supposed to represent, but who are totally ignoring them? how many of them have been promised what to back these deals? what benefit is there to them as individuals? why is everyone of these representatives hell bent on doing what is best, in their opinions, for businesses while being absolute shit deals for the people?
these secretive deals have to be stopped! they have been going on for many years, without the knowledge of the people but now the existence of them is known, no one wants them, except those individuals who benefit! turning the planet into a giant corporation people and unless there are some serious changes to government thinking and representation, we will be in the crap in the very near future!!

David says:

Uh what?

And yet Robb expects 23 million Australians to agree to TPP on precisely that basis, simply because he says it’s a good deal. That’s not just appallingly arrogant, but also profoundly irresponsible.

It’s also a load of bull. Robb most certainly does not expect 23 million Australians to agree to TPP on any basis. He expects them to bear the consequences of his agreement. That’s something entirely different. If he expected Australians to agree, there would be no point in his trying to sidestep any sort of public involvement in the decision-making.

ECA (profile) says:

“Australia’s economic output by just 0.7% by 2030”
They have estimated in the USA, that Even without it, the USA would go up that much Naturally..if not more.
90% of this is Jobs, and 10% is corporate wages..
If you Cut 10% of corp wages, you would probably be able to hire another 10,000 people to work, NEXT WEEK..

“the usual suspects”
Is this a Bad thing??? Logic, economists, and the public have been saying it for the last 10 years.. This is like your art teacher TRYING to tell you, yellow and blue make green, and you dont CARE OR WISH to understand….

The Aussies are in a GREAT position if they did 1 thing…CUT the copyrights, and LET THINGS IN…all the hacked goodies and Other products that ‘do the same thing’ with out paying 300 copyrights, to MAKE them..would create enough sales jobs in the nation to give everyone a Good living. They could create a better market on Amazon/ebay and sell it to other nations(and hope not to be Blacklisted) for selling un-copy protected goods..

That One Guy (profile) says:

Clearly he just wants to avoid a redundant study

“There’s no need for an independent review, as I’ve already done one and come to the conclusion that the agreement will benefit quite well the only party that matters:


As such I don’t give a damn what consequences the agreement will have on the rest of you, and I won’t have you uppity peasants putting my benefits at risk by trying to challenge the actions of your betters.”

Kronomex (profile) says:

It never ceases to amaze me that here in ‘straya Malcontent Turncoat and his cronies only ever seem to talk to Rupert controlled rags and television stations with an occasional tiny bone thrown to other media outlets. And now Robb is quitting, after delivering us into serfdom to multinational corporations, because of his “age and health” and a bit of work in the private sector. Extremely well paid lobbyist position anyone?

I can’t wait to see the millions of jobs and billions of dollars the TPP will create…oh wait, I’m dreaming again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Last Gravy Train leaving

If the politicians pass this into law then Corporations will no longer need to “Lobby” politicians with sums of money, future job prospects or any of the other private gravy train extras as their Corporate Tribunal will override any sovereign government law court which uses the laws of the country to judge upon.

So it looks like Andrew Robb is getting on board the final gravy train as he knows exactly what is going to happen to his fellow politicians that are left in parliament, no future jobs or money to their parties for them, suckers!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...