Labor's internal disagreement over the Trans-Pacific Partnership is healthy debate, not disunity, Bill Shorten says.
Bill Shorten insists Labor MPs who want the party to abandon support for a massive trade deal are having a fair dinkum debate about tough issues - not being disunited.
Minutes of last week's caucus meeting leaked to the media on Tuesday night, revealing a dozen or so Labor MPs spoke against supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The Herald Sun reports Labor senator Doug Cameron argued the deal will send voters to One Nation in Queensland and western Sydney.
Other MPs argued the deal will hurt workers and was against Labor policy.
"What we should never do in Australia is confuse debate and disagreement with disunity," Mr Shorten told reporters on Wednesday.
"Right through my caucus there is concern that this agreement has plenty of problems with it."
But Mr Shorten said he "reluctantly" supports it and intends to improve it when he gets into government.
He argued the deal benefits farmers, universities, the Australian steel and manufacturing industries.
"What we saw was, I thought, a thorough and fair dinkum debate," he said.
Labor supported the TPP through the lower house but is under pressure from unions and the Greens to block it in the Senate.
A Senate inquiry looking at the TPP recommended the government remove investor-state dispute settlement provisions from it and all future trade deals.
Labor MPs say ISDS laws allow foreign companies to sue the Australian government.
The committee also wants labour market testing included in the deal.
Women's rights organisation ActionAid Australia said the TPP entrenched gender inequality in favour of large corporations.
"If it goes ahead, this gender-blind deal will exacerbate existing gender inequalities for women living in poverty around the world," executive director Michelle Higelin said.
The TPP-11 trade pact involves Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Peru and Chile, with the US pulling out of the deal when Donald Trump became president.
Mexico, Singapore and Japan have ratified the deal, with New Zealand, Peru and Canada expected to join the list in coming months.