Few Australian Businesses Use Or Know About Trade Agreements: So Why Make Big Concessions To Sign Up To TPP?

from the serious-question dept

Techdirt recently looked at the important leak of the investment chapter from the TPP trade agreement, noting how bad it was, particularly as far as the corporate sovereignty provisions are concerned. One obvious question this raises is: will the supposed benefits of TPP outweigh these kind of serious problems? Obviously, we won't be able to make even a provisional assessment until we have the full and final text, but what we can do is look at whether past trade agreements have been worth it. Measuring that objectively is not easy, but one way of gauging their value is to look at the extent to which businesses -- the intended beneficiaries of trade agreements -- actually use them. There's not much data to go on here, but this report in the Sydney Morning Herald is pretty unequivocal:

The annual Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry trade survey shows the least understood free trade agreement is the Korea-Australia FTA, followed by the Australia-Chile FTA. The most understood agreements are the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (understood by 18 per cent of those surveyed) and the Australia-United States one (understood by 17 per cent). The results have dropped by about 7 percentage points since the 2014 survey, suggesting fewer Australian businesses understand the agreements than previously.
Note that this survey comes from a trade organization, and so is unlikely to be biased against such agreements. Actual usage by Australian businesses was equally unimpressive:
Only 13 per cent of small businesses found Australia's FTA with New Zealand "really useful". Almost 23 per cent of big businesses found it useful. About 15 per cent of small businesses found the free trade agreement with the US useful and 22 per cent of big businesses did.
Of course, this is only one survey, and in one country. But you'd think that all governments contemplating signing up to global trade agreements like TPP and TAFTA/TTIP would have done plenty of this kind research before committing themselves. The fact that they haven't might almost lead a cynic to suspect that they were prepared to sign up whether or not it was a good thing for their nation, just so they could claim a political "win".

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  1. identicon
    Thrudd, 31 Mar 2015 @ 10:42am

    Not the Titanic, more like the Lusitania.

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