Federal Politics

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Obama's man appeals to Turnbull for help

The US Ambassador to Australia says he wants Malcolm Turnbull to argue the case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership when he visits Washington next week, where members of Congress are undecided about how to vote.

US Ambassador to Australia John Berry is confident Malcolm Turnbull can help President Obama get support for the TPP.
US Ambassador to Australia John Berry is confident Malcolm Turnbull can help President Obama get support for the TPP. Photo: Daniel Munoz

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama used his last State of the Union address to appeal to Congress to approve the 12-nation mega trade deal.

Unless it is approved by half of the potential members representing more than 85 per cent of its economic strength, it will lapse.

President Obama said it would open markets, protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia.

"With the Trans-Pacific Partnership, China doesn't set the rules in that region, we do," he told Congress. "You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it."


Speaking to journalists in Canberra after Mr Obama's speech, Ambassador John Berry said he knew Mr Turnbull would be visiting Capitol Hill while he was in Washington and he hoped he would be carrying a message to Congress.

"Australia is one of the major investors in the United States," he said. "This is a two-way street. We both benefit, we both grow, we both gain."

Asked whether members of the Congress not swayed by their President could be brought across the line by a message from the Australian Prime Minister, he replied: "Absolutely. Members of Congress, when the Prime Minister says something about this, they will hear it loud and clear and they will take Australia very seriously."

Ambassador Berry said he believed US lawmakers would ultimately support the TPP.

A World Bank report released last week found Australia would gain almost nothing from the mega trade deal, lifting its gross domestic product by just 0.7 per cent by the year 2030. The annual boost would be less than one half of one 10th of 1 per cent.

Mr Berry was not sure he agreed with the analysis.

"That's just one analysis. I think it is important to remember ... we are both trading nations" he said. "What the TPP does is it opens a playing field with countries that will be future market places where there will be very significant middle class populations."

The Trans-Pacific Partnership would tie together Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, opening borders, imposing tougher intellectual property rules and setting up a system of outside tribunals in which aggrieved investors could take governments to court.

The World Bank found that it would cut trade with non-members such as Thailand, harming its economy, while boosting trade with members such as Vietnam, which would be the biggest beneficiary.

The online newsletter Inside Trade has reported that the 12 nations are planning to sign the agreement in New Zealand on February 4.

Australia has to table the agreement in Parliament for 20 joint sitting days and consider a report from the joint standing committee on treaties before ratifying it.

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