Environment News: The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Twelve Pacific Rim nations have signed a trade deal that has implications for Aussie fishers and boaters.

AFTER years of consultation and negotiation, 12 Pacific Rim nations have agreed to move forward on a trade deal which will change the international trading game. How exactly no economic commentators seem to be sure, and the deal has still to be ratified by the Governments of the countries which signed up: Canada, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, the USA and Australia.

Our Government claims it will result in increased economic growth, more jobs, higher living standards, increased productivity and cheaper imports. But, as usual, the Devil will be in the detail and announcements so far have been a bit light on in this area. Given there are 30 report chapters that need to be translated for each participant country and then be approved for publication, don’t hold your breath. 

There are some immediate impacts on fishing and related industries once the deals approved and some we can speculate about. Tariffs on seafood exports to some countries will be removed immediately (egg to Mexico and Peru) and eventually to others (e.g. in 16 years’ time to Japan). That should theoretically boost the local fishing industry but the subsequent effects on our local markets and our fish stocks are less clear, although from a regional perspective the deal should make attacking illegal fishing in the Pacific easier.

What it will do to the interests of our local tackle and boating manufacturers and our tackle importers might depend on how nimble, in a business sense, they can be. Economic writers in the mainstream press have suggested that he deal will remove 98% of tariffs currently existing in the region and specifically eliminate tariffs on US $8.6 billion worth of exports from Australia to the other member countries. Will our remaining boat and tackle manufacturers see this as an opportunity or a threat? Theoretically at least some of their material costs should be lower and their export opportunities should increase. But on the other hand they may have to work harder to maintain their share of the domestic markets, as imports could be cheaper. Wandering around the New York boat show a couple of years back I was amazed at how much cheaper boats were …maybe 50%…in the USA than here.

It’s also claimed that e payments will become much easier across the member countries as a result of the partnership. Many Australian anglers already “import” tackle directly from the USA and Canada as the list prices are lower, the range is broader and without GST on items up to $1,000 the freight costs virtually cancel themselves out. The government is of course being lobbied by retailers to remove the GST exemption. But if it becomes really easy to buy tackle direct on line from Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, our local tackle guys will need a pretty sophisticated plan B.

Whatever else, if the deal is ratified it looks like the game will change for the Australian fishing and boating industries. Some participants will probably prosper and expand, and some, if they make the wrong choices or just can’t cope, could end up like Holden, Ford and Toyota.



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