Manufacturers, service sector and education big winners from Pacific free trade agreement, experts say
Ian Murray, of the Australian Institute of Export, welcomes news that Australia is negotiating with the US, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Peru, Chile, Brunei and Malaysia about a Trans-Pacific partnership. Japan has registered its interest also.
"It's terrific," Murray tells SmartCompany.
"There's a lot of areas where this could be of enormous benefit," he says, tipping agriculture, manufacturing, financial planning, wealth management, education, and possibly accounting as sectors likely to gain.
Tim Harcourt, Austrade chief economist, also expects professional services to benefit from the agreement, the text for which will be written by the end of next year.
But Murray cautions that an agreement could take years, particularly as the US enters an election year, and some sectors might be excluded due to the domestic politics of key countries.
"We're hoping it will be all-encompassing, but as always there will be caveats."
Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the nine countries account for one-quarter of the world's gross domestic product, and if Japan signs on, more than one-third.
"That is a regional economic structure one and a half times the size of the European union," Gillard said at the weekend.
US President Barack Obama added that with nearly 500 million consumers between the nations, "there is so much we can do together".
Austrade chief economist Tim Harcourt says an agreement could deliver real growth to the world economy, particularly as Europe struggles.
Harcourt says Japan's support will add serious momentum.
"Japan was the beachhead that enabled Australia to get into Asia," he says.
"It knows after its troubles this year that being a world citizen means signing up to cooperative global agreement. It also knows it has an ageing population and needs good resources and food access."
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, welcomes the chance for new markets and opportunities, and the freeing up of innovation.
Strong says if the agreement goes ahead, business will need information on who will be advantaged and disadvantaged, recalling when the Hawke Government brought in adjustment packages when it implemented changes that would affect trades.
The free trade agreement is likely to gain bipartisan support, with the Coalition keen on the deal. The National Farmers' Federation has also welcomed the prospect of new markets for export.
But the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union is cautious on labour and environmental standards, and proper access to markets.
The Greens, meanwhile, have cautioned that the US are likely to push Australia on its Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme and local content rules for television and film.