The Business Council of Australia (BCA) welcomes the opportunity to provide this submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth's inquiry into the Australian Government's approach to negotiating trade and investment agreements.
The inquiry presents an opportunity to enhance the prospective benefits of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), including the creation of well-paid jobs, economic resilience, and improved living standards for all Australians. It is also an opportunity to improve business and other stakeholder involvement in the processes for negotiating FTAs so that they better reflect the broad set of community interests, including those of the business sector.
As outlined in BCA's comprehensive plan, Seize the Moment, FTAs are critical to helping Australia unlock the full economic, trade and investment potential of our existing trade relationships. We must optimise the use of existing FTAs, conclude ongoing negotiations, and revise current agreements to enhance market access, particularly in areas like digital trade and sustainability.
Additionally, it is crucial to finalise an FTA with the European Union, strengthen the existing FTA with India, and expand digital trade agreements. Leveraging strategic alliances in fields like clean energy and critical minerals is essential for maximising these opportunities.
The vast majority of international trade and investment takes place between firms and Australia's approach to negotiating FTAs needs to proceed from acknowledgement of this simple reality. This means that business is uniquely well-placed to advise governments on the most salient barriers and frictions to cross-border trade and investment, barriers behind the border, as well as the potential benefits of trade liberalisation. The business community has a strong, natural alignment with the trade-expanding objectives of FTAs. It is also business that ultimately shoulders the burden of complying with the provisions of trade agreements.