The Minerals Council of Australia welcomes the Trade Policy Statement released by the Minister for Trade, Craig Emerson today.

The statement represents an important statement of the Government’s determination to pursue a principles-based approach to free and open trade and investment.

With minerals exports accounting for nearly 60 per cent of Australia’s merchandise exports, the minerals sector has a fundamental interest in an open, transparent global trade and investment regime.

We strongly support the Minister’s energetic pursuit of an early conclusion to the long-running Doha Round and the completion of commercially meaningful free trade agreements with key trading partners in East Asia and through the Trans Pacific Partnership.

While barriers to minerals trade are generally low, trade agreements – both multilateral and bilateral – can provide the certainty and rules-based framework essential for productive long term trade and investment relationships.

We note that the policy statement supports the inclusion of labour and environmental standards in trade agreements. While welcoming the Government’s assurances that these would not be used for protectionist purposes, we urge considerable caution in this area and note that Australia has consistently resisted the use of so-called social tariffs over recent decades of trade reform.

As the trade policy statement makes clear, domestic policy settings will remain critical in underpinning the competitiveness of Australia’s export and import-competing sectors.

To this end, the Government should apply a ‘no-disadvantage to competitiveness’ test when considering new domestic policy measures.

In particular, the Government should apply this test to the proposed carbon pricing scheme. While unilateral trade liberalisation is unequivocally in Australia’s interests, imposing new costs on Australian exporters ahead of their competitors by adopting a re-run of the flawed Rudd Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme(CPRS) threatens to weaken, not strengthen Australia’s competitiveness.

Trade data released recently show that under a re-run of the CPRS, 80 per cent of Australia’s top 20 exports will face direct and indirect carbon costs that will not be borne by their global competitors.

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