Australia joins 11 nations to finally lock in TPP trade deal

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Australia joins 11 nations to finally lock in TPP trade deal

But details of mammoth pact remain a secret.

Australia is one of 12 Pacific Rim countries to today reach agreement on the long-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, but the details of the large-scale pact still remain a secret.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today welcomed the deal, which he said would provided guaranteed access for Australian businesses in areas including telecommunications, mining services, transport, health, education, finance, legal and tourism.

Turnbull said import taxes in TPP countries covering around $9 billion of Australian trade would be removed under the deal, and more than 98 percent of tariffs in the overall TPP region would be eliminated.

He pointed out that in 2014, $109 billion worth of local goods and services went to TPP countries - a third of Australia's total exports.

The TPP countries - Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam - will have to lift tariffs and taxes on a range of imports once the agreement is ratified.

The controversial free trade deal has been has been negotiated in full secrecy, with the only insight into what the countries were planning provided by leaked texts.

While the negotiations were concluded in Austin, Texas in the early hours of this morning, the final text of the TPP is yet to be made public.

Arrangements for releasing the text are currently being finalised, the Australian government said. Once that process is complete, it will table the document in parliament for 20 joint sitting days.

The joint standing committee on treaties will then conduct an inquiry into the document and report back to parliament.

Parliament will also consider any legislation that may be affected before the treaty is implemented and becomes binding.

The TPP will come into effect 60 days after all signatory nations have notified that their domestic legal procedures have been completed.

What it means for Australian business

Turnbull said the TPP would contain "state of the art e-commerce provisions" to support the digital economy and promote consumer protection, as well as a more liberal cross-border environment for online business.

It means TPP countries commit to allow the movement of data and storage across borders without Australia's Privacy Act and other parts of the regulatory framework being affected.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said [pdf] one of the specific outcomes for telecommunications services was that Australian companies would benefit from the lifting of foreign equity limits in Vietnam.

Australian companies could also apply to fully own Malaysian telecommunications ventures under the TPP, DFAT said.

However, the lifting of foreign equity limits in Vietnamese telcos would only come into effect five years after the TPP comes into force.

Australian companies will also be able to bid for government procurement deals for for computers and related services in all TPP countries, as well as telecommunications and related services in Brunei, Canada, Malaysia and Peru, DFAT said.

Local concerns had previously arisen over the hard-line stance the US was understood to have taken on intellectual property, which reportedly included penalties for illegal downloads in signatory states.

Turnbull said the TPP would "not require changes to Australia's intellectual property laws or policies, whether in copyright, pharmaceutical patents or enforcement", but did not go into further detail.

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