The internet provides a pathway for consumers and businesses to access goods, services and technology from around the world. However, tariffs, compliance and administration costs, inadequate intellectual property protection, and other barriers can reduce the opportunities presented by the internet. This is why trade deals that reduce barriers to commerce between countries remain important to improving the efficiency and competitiveness of the Australian economy.
Since the 2013 Federal Election, the Government has concluded groundbreaking Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with China, Japan and South Korea, which deliver commercial opportunities and drive innovation as Australian businesses, big and small, increasingly exploit e-commerce and other emerging technologies to connect with consumers and business partners in these countries. These FTAs also help Australia attract more foreign investment—including in high-tech sectors —as global investors seek to use Australia as a regional platform to export to North Asia.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a regional FTA of unprecedented scope and ambition that includes
state-of-the-art commitments for trade in the digital age. The 12 countries that negotiated the TPP represent 40 per cent of the global economy, and a quarter of world trade. The TPP includes new rules about the movement and storage of data as well as enhanced commitments to protect privacy, consumer rights and efforts to combat ‘spam’ messages.
Beyond FTAs, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Information Technology Agreement (ITA) is an undertaking to liberalise global trade in ICT products. In December 2015, 52 WTO Members agreed to expand the product coverage of the ITA and remove tariffs on a further 201 products, which account for almost ten per cent of global trade. The expansion of the ITA is the first major tariff-cutting deal at the WTO in 18 years. Australia imports $19 billion worth of goods covered under the expanded agreement, and exports $3.6 billion. Eliminating tariffs on these goods benefits Australian consumers by putting downward pressure on end prices, and benefit businesses by reducing costs and making Australia’s export industries more competitive. dfat.gov.au