2016 Spring - Can Australia’s biosecurity standards survive in a free trade era?

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FPJ1303B - Richards, C & Higgins, V (2016), Trade Liberalisation and Australian Biosecurity: Opportunities and Challenges Under the ‘Shared Responsibility’ Approach

FPJ1303B - Richards, C & Higgins, V (2016), Trade Liberalisation and Australian Biosecurity: Opportunities and Challenges Under the ‘Shared Responsibility’ Approach, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 13, no. 3, Spring 2016, pp. 1-9, Surry Hills, Australia.

Since the breakdown of World Trade Organization ‘Doha Round’ trade negotiations in 2008, the shape of free trade agreements has radically changed. Mega-free trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement bring Australia into new, major trade partnerships that encompass almost a billion of the world’s population and 40% of global Gross Domestic Product. Despite the opportunities for Australia’s export market, little is known about the potential challenges these FTAs present for national and sub-national biosecurity governance. This paper investigates whether Australia’s ‘shared responsibility’ approach, which devolves responsibility for biosecurity to key stakeholders, such as producers, is adequate in this new trade environment. The paper argues that in principle a greater sharing of responsibility enables improved engagement and participation by a broader range of stakeholders, leading to more effective post-border surveillance and a biosecurity system that is better positioned to respond to the risks posed by freer trade. However, in practice, pressure by influential trading partners, as well as corporations, to further liberalise trade may weaken Australian Government efforts to promote shared responsibility. This is likely to occur through opposition by producers to imports perceived to threaten their livelihoods, and increased tensions for industry bodies in advocating free trade whilst at the same time taking greater responsibility for biosecurity. In concluding, the paper argues that a shared responsibility approach may not be adequate in coping with this new agricultural trade environment, posing serious challenges for Australia’s biosecurity system.

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