RCEP implementing legislation: Second Reading Speeches to Parliament
Customs Amendment (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement Implementation) Bill 2021
(Extracted from Hansard Proof issued on 2 September 2021)
Second Reading Speech
The Customs Amendment (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement Implementation) Bill 2021 amends the Customs Act 1901 to implement the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement—RCEP.
Once it comes into force for all 15 signatories, RCEP will be the world's largest free trade agreement, bringing together nine of Australia's top 15 trading partners—that together account for nearly 60 per cent of our trade and about two-thirds of our exports—into a single economic framework. The signing of RCEP in November 2020 by Australia, the 10 ASEAN member states, China, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea signalled a commitment to opening up new trade and investment opportunities and support for rules-based trading arrangements. These signals are especially important in the face of the challenges of COVID-19 and emerging global trade tensions.
The negotiation of RCEP was driven by the 10 ASEAN nations, which collectively constitute Australia's second-largest two-way trading partner. Having considered a number of options for expanding opportunities for regional trade, ASEAN chose to pursue a more inclusive approach that would extend to all of ASEAN's then FTA partners, including Australia.
Australian participation in RCEP negotiations has allowed us to influence the rules incorporated in RCEP.
The government will continue to work with ASEAN and other RCEP signatory states to shape the implementation and future direction of RCEP so that it contributes to the development of open, transparent approaches to regional trade and investment; and bolsters ASEAN's role in the region.
Active Australian participation in RCEP will be needed to maximise our influence, requiring a substantial investment on the part of the government.
RCEP delivers a range of improvements over our existing FTAs with RCEP partners—especially in areas where our partners' economies have the greatest growth potential, such as services, investment and digital trade.
RCEP will help stimulate growth, strengthen economic integration, and build business confidence in our region. RCEP signatory states account for around 30 per cent of the world's population and GDP. No other free trade agreement brings together the collective economic weight of the ASEAN nations and the major economies in North Asia. RCEP also provides for additional economies to join RCEP in the future—building the significance of RCEP over time.
RCEP will lock in market access and address non-tariff barriers, creating significant new trade and investment opportunities for Australia across the Indo-Pacific. It will also establish rules that provide greater certainty and improve the business environment across the region.
RCEP's regional rules of origin will support access to regional value chains, thus increasing opportunities for Australian business. Regional cumulation rules will facilitate inputs from the most efficient and cost-effective regional source, while supporting access to preferential tariff treatment. Goods made in another RCEP party from Australian exports—for example, iron ore, wheat, barley, milk powder, copper, nickel and wool—would benefit from tariff preferences under RCEP when processed in a second RCEP party and exported to a third.
RCEP will reduce FTA rules of origin compliance burdens, meaning that Australian businesses trading with multiple RCEP parties will only need to comply with one set of rules and procedures. RCEP will also provide businesses with greater choice in how they meet origin documentation requirements.
This bill will insert into the Customs Act the rules of origin and document retention requirements called for by RCEP. The bill outlines when imported goods may be considered to have originating status and be eligible for preferential tariff treatment.
This bill is complemented by the Customs Tariff Amendment (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement Implementation) Bill 2021, which will amend the Customs Tariff Act 1995. I commend the bill to the House.
Customs Tariff Amendment (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement Implementation) Bill 2021
The Customs Tariff Amendment (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement Implementation) Bill 2021 will amend the Customs Tariff Act 1995 (the Customs Tariff Act) to implement Australia's import tariff commitments under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).
The bill will insert a new schedule of duty rates into the Customs Tariff Act. Schedule 14 will contain the preferential rates of customs duty for imported goods that satisfy the rules of origin as agreed by Australia and other RCEP signatory countries. Australia has committed to eliminating the duty rate for most originating goods to 'free' over the years following the entry into force of RCEP. Certain goods, such as excise equivalent goods, will retain a rate of customs duty other than 'free'. Excise equivalent goods, which are certain fuel, alcohol, tobacco and petroleum products, that are considered originating under the agreement will continue to receive the same treatment as domestically produced equivalents.
The bill also amends certain tariff concessions to maintain their scope. The bill complements the Customs Amendment (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement Implementation) Bill 2021, which will amend the Customs Act 1901. I commend the bill to the House.