Across the globe, there is an expanding network of free trade agreements (FTAs). High-quality, comprehensive free trade agreements can play an important role in supporting global trade liberalisation and are explicitly allowed for under the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
FTAs can cover entire regions with multiple participants or link just two economies. Under these agreements, parties enter into legally binding commitments to liberalise access to each others' markets for goods and services, and investment. FTAs also typically address a range of other issues such as intellectual property rights, government procurement and competition policy.
The government will not enter into any trade agreement that falls short of the benchmarks set by the WTO or the benchmarks we set ourselves of high-quality, truly liberalising trade deals that support global trade liberalisation.
Australia has seven FTAs currently in force with New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, US, Chile, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) (with New Zealand) and Malaysia. The countries covered by these FTAs account for 28 per cent of Australia's total trade.
Australia is currently engaged in eight FTA negotiations - four bilateral FTA negotiations: China, Japan, India and Indonesia; and four plurilateral FTA negotiations: the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Pacific Trade and Economic Agreement (PACER Plus), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP). Negotiations with Korea was concluded recently but has not yet entered into force.
The countries covered by these negotiations account for a further 45 per cent of Australia's trade.
FTAs are helping Australian exporters access new markets and expand trade in existing markets.