Turnbull flags prospect of new TPP with China and calls Bill Shorten 'the biggest threat to Australian jobs'

Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images.

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has flagged the prospect of striking revised Trans-Pacific Partnership that excludes the US, and has spoken with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe about the prospect.

The new TPP deal would include China, instead of the US, after president Donald Trump yesterday signed a executive order with intent to pull America from the Trans-Pacific trade deal.

The TPP deal, which would lower tariffs for 12 countries around the Pacific Rim, including Australia and Japan but excluding China, was negotiated under the Obama administration.

“Trade is one-and-a-half times as big a share of our economy as it is of the United States. What that means is that there is a bigger proportion of Australians whose jobs depend on exports than there is of Americans,” Turnbull said, emphasising the need to create new trade opportunities.

“We want to have more opportunities with more markets. We already have a China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Certainly there is the potential for China to join the TPP.

“President Trump has said America will not proceed with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. You have to recognise that his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has been a longtime advocate for it. The Republican Party in the Congress have been strong supporters of the TPP. So it is possible that US policy could change over time on this as it has done on other trade deals.

“There is also the opportunity for the TPP to proceed without the United States and I’ve had active discussions with other leaders as recently as last night with [the Japanese] Prime Minister Abe about that. We believe in trade.

“If you want more Australian businesses to succeed, if you want more Australian workers to have well-paid jobs with businesses that are exporting to the biggest markets in the world than you’ve got to support trade,” he said, adding that the minister for trade is currently seeking to secure new trade agreements with Indonesia and India.

This comes after Australia signed a trade deal with Singapore last year, complimenting agreements which previously stood with China, Korea and Japan.

“What we are seeing at the moment from Mr Shorten is the greatest example of Labor gutlessness for generations,” Turnbull said. “Forty years of Labor leaders have stood up for trade, have sought to open up opportunities for Australians to export their products, export their services because they’ve recognised that trade is goof for jobs.

“Mr Shorten has put himself in the position where he is against trade and he’s for higher energy costs. Bill Shorten is the biggest threat to Australian jobs especially in any business, any industry that has an export market or wants to take on export opportunities and that applies to most of our fastest growing industries.

“We are constantly working to open the doors of new markets and open wider the doors of existing markets for Australian exporters because that is where the jobs are to be found. It is shameful that Mr Shorten is so weak that simply because Donald Trump has said he doesn’t want to proceed with the TPP and he is in favour of a more protectionist approach for America, Bill Shorten now says that’s what he wants to do in Australia. Well let me tell you, we are not the United States. Our economy is not that of the United States. Our jobs growth is based on Australians having access to bigger markets. Being able to sell more services, sell more products, sell more of the product from our agriculture.

“What we need is bigger and better market opportunities and we are determined to make them available and we have done that. We have proved that. It is extraordinary that a Labor leader has decided to get on this protectionist bandwagon, totally at odds with Gillard, with Rudd, with Hawke, with Keating. This is a blast right back into the 1950s. He is not yesterday’s man, he is last century’s man.”

Trump made free trade one of the central topics of his presidential campaign, arguing against trade deals and calling the TPP “a rape of our country.”

Those opposed to the TPP centred their arguments on the growing populist movement of protectionism as American workers worry about losing jobs to other countries.

China’s government has shown initial signs of being willing to lead discussions on global trade.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum at Davos last week, Chinese president Xi Jinping criticised protectionism and suggested that China may negotiate regional trade deals, advocating for a 16-nation pact called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that excludes the US.

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