CANBERRA --Australia will join the Trans-Pacific Partnership bloc to promote its bilateral and multilateral aims for trade, Simon Crean, the minister for trade, said Wednesday.
The current members of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement between Chile, New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei invited Australia, Peru and Vietnam to join the negotiations several months ago, with the U.S. confirming its intention to participate in September, he said.
In October, public consultations were held by the Australian government with industry, business, academics, labor and community organizations, as well as with other agencies and state and territory officials, he said.
"The widespread view is that Australia should participate in this Agreement and be involved from the outset - to ensure that we are able to help shape the Agreement in a way that benefits Australia," he said in a statement to the House of Representatives.
"Taking into account this input, the government has formed the view that we should proceed," he said.
The Australian government favors initiatives that ensure bilateral and regional trade arrangements are more consistent with the multilateral trading system, which it wants to expand, he said.
The partnership has the potential to spread the benefits of comprehensive and high-quality free trade agreements, namely their speed and depth as a vehicle for trade liberalization, to a wider membership and has the potential to reduce trade discrimination by broadening its coverage, he said.
With the confirmed participation of the U.S., Peru and Australia, there is a strong potential for the Trans-Pacific Partnership to develop into a broad-based and high quality FTA, he said.
The first meeting of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is planned for March 2009 in Singapore, which is also next year's host for the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
The existing free trade arrangements between partnership members should allow Australia to work expeditiously, he said.
-By Ray Brindal, Dow Jones Newswires; 612-6208-0902; firstname.lastname@example.org