House of Representatives

Customs Amendment (Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus Implementation) Bill 2018

Second Reading Speech

Mr CIOBO (Moncrieff-Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment)

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Customs Amendment (Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus Implementation) Bill 2018 amends the Customs Act 1901 to implement Australia's obligations under chapter 3 of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER Plus).

Australia and the Pacific island countries are longstanding partners, with common interests in economic progress and regional stability. Our partners in the region range from countries richly endowed with people and resources to small atolls with geographically isolated populations.

PACER Plus reflects this diversity, as a comprehensive free trade agreement tailored to help Pacific island countries address their specific development challenges and better participate in global trade.

The Turnbull coalition government has the most ambitious trade agenda in Australia's history. PACER Plus, a unique trade agreement to drive economic prosperity and raise living standards in our region, will complement our trade agreements already in force which are delivering record export growth and creating more local jobs.

Creating more opportunities for Australian businesses in global markets is at the core of this government's economic plan.

PACER Plus has been signed so far by Australia, the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. In addition to covering trade in goods and services, investment and movement of natural persons, PACER Plus also has a regional development focus.

As set out in Australia's 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, the stability and economic progress of the Pacific island countries are of fundamental importance to Australia. Pacific island countries face a range of economic challenges which impact upon their development. These challenges include small markets, narrow production bases and high costs of business and trade. PACER Plus will better enable Pacific island countries to meet these challenges.

Implementing PACER Plus will create new trade rules that will mark a significant improvement on the trade rules that have been in place since the 1980s.

This will improve the ability of exporters from the Pacific island countries that are party to the agreement to access both the Australian and New Zealand markets, which will in turn encourage development of export industries and job creation.

Implementing PACER Plus will also create opportunities for Australian businesses in a range of sectors. Over time the benefits of greater openness and transparency are expected to strengthen these opportunities.

The amendments to the Customs Act 1901 contained in this bill will implement the provisions of chapter 3 of PACER Plus. Chapter 3 sets out rules-of-origin criteria and related documentary requirements for claiming preferential tariff entry for goods imported from Pacific island countries that accede to PACER Plus.

Under PACER Plus, preferential tariff treatment is available based on declarations regarding the origin of goods based on information provided by the importer, the exporter, the producer or their authorised representative. This will reduce the amount of red tape for importers of goods originating in Pacific island countries.

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, under the chairmanship of the member for Fadden, has finalised its report on the PACER Plus, recommending binding treaty action.

In recognition of our ongoing commitment to the development of Pacific island countries and the benefits to Australian businesses, we are introducing the implementing legislation at this time.

Debate adjourned.