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Turnbull, Shorten debate trade policy

AAP logoAAP 12/09/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Labor has defended a cautious approach to global trade deals, as Malcolm Turnbull warned of a drop in business and consumer confidence if barriers are put up.

The prime minister delivered an economic and security statement to parliament on Monday, following his week of global summits, including the G20 in China.

Mr Turnbull said the "overwhelming consensus" from world leaders was open markets, free trade, innovation and entrepreneurship would drive global growth and jobs amid economic fragility.

"Our clear resolve was we must not respond to global and domestic economic volatility by giving in to populists peddling the empty promises of isolationism and the false hopes of protectionism," he said.

"There is no surer recipe for extinguishing vital business and consumer confidence than by putting up economic barriers."

Labor leader Bill Shorten told parliament there was "alienation between the boosters of change and those on the receiving end of change", which was having a political and social impact.

It was easy to sing the praises of free trade, and condemn the evils of protectionism from the comfort of financial security, he said.

"As the party that built Australia's modern open economy, Labor fully understands the benefits of free trade, but we believe free trade should work in the interests of all, not some.

"We know that nothing damages the cause of free trade more than poor advocates with a flawed argument that costs local jobs or puts those jobs in jeopardy."

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