Call to end secrecy in trade deals

By Colin Brinsden, AAP Economic Correspondent

A new report has called for a formal trade policy to prevent international trade agreements being negotiated in secret.

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia report recognises the economic benefits that flow from free trade agreements.

However, it notes that details of the multi-country Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement released late last week had already drawn criticism.

Releasing the report on Monday, CEDA chief executive Stephen Martin said it was often overlooked that trade agreements had to be ratified by parliament with little time to assess for unintended consequences.

"As always with complex agreements, the devil is often in the detail, not the headline," Professor Martin said.

"While governments trumpet the economic benefits of FTAs that will flow to Australia, whether in trade access or increased employment opportunities, a criticism is that these agreements are negotiated in secret."

Prof Martin called for an overarching trade policy that set out how agreements fit within a single strategic economic framework.

He said that would provide some certainty that each agreement is negotiated within certain parameters, and with a specific direction in mind.