Tim Harcourt 

The annual APEC summit has just concluded in Hawaii. The summit ended optimistically, and it could be just the chance Australia needs to boost trade over the entire Asia Pacific region, according to a senior economist at the Australian School of Business.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, US President Barack Obama and the heads of seven other nations have now reached an agreement on the broad outline of a new trade regime known as the Trans-Pacific Partnerships (TPP).

I feel the announcement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is good news for Australia and good news for the region as a whole.

Trade initiatives are important for workers as well as business. Exporters, on average pay 60 per cent higher wages and provide more job security than non-exporters.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Trade Minister Dr Craig Emerson are to be congratulated for forging the most important initiative since APEC itself was created by the Hawke-Keating Government.

At the APEC summit opened by US President Barack Obama, the APEC members also agreed to cut tariffs on environmental goods to five per cent, as part of a push against protectionism, which grows at times of global economic instability.

Exporters will experience the benefit from being able to get environmental products which we produce into the economies of APEC countries at a lower tariff, and this can only be good news for Australian manufacturing.

The rest of the talks on world trade didn’t go as well, and there has been a lack of progress in negotiating a multilateral agreement following the Doha Round of world trade talks. However I do hope that the APEC talks will achieve a breakthrough. In 1957 Japan helped Australia get into Asia by forging a commercial partnership with Australia, just 12 years after World War II. With the TPP, Japan has supported what could be the most significant trade partnership to date in the 21st Century. Hopefully APEC can get things moving.

Indeed, Australians need to be aware of what is happening in the world. With Greek debt, Roman ruins and Europe in difficulty, it is important the world turns to the Asia Pacific region to be the economic engine of global growth and TPP will help add to this momentum.

Tim Harcourt is the J.W.Nevile Fellow in Economics at the Australian School of Business UNSW and the author of The Airport Economist: www.theairporteconomist.com.